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August 21, 2017 9:48 am

Organizers of Annual Holocaust Commemoration Slam Racial Justice March On Yom Kippur As ‘Monumental Injustice’ Against Jews

avatar by Ben Cohen

March of the Living participants pass through the gates of Auschwitz in 2016. Photo: MOTL.

The organizers of an annual Holocaust commemoration that culminates with a procession at the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland have strongly criticized the forthcoming March for Racial Justice for selecting Yom Kippur — the holiest day in the Jewish calendar — as the date for a show of unity along the National Mall in Washington, DC.

“By choosing a day in the Jewish calendar that Jewish people cannot participate in, you have effectively turned your March for Justice into a monumental act of injustice against the Jewish people,” declared Phyllis Greenberg Heideman, the president of the March of the Living, an annual intensive program that takes participants to Poland and then to Israel to commemorate the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis.

The March for Racial Justice is scheduled to take place on September 30, when many American Jews will be fasting and attending all-day synagogue services in observance of Yom Kippur. The date was chosen in honor of the victims of a white supremacist riot in Elaine, Arkansas, on the same date in 1919. More than 200 black Americans were murdered during the violence, including former servicemen who had just returned from the battlefields of World War One in Europe.

Last week, a statement from march organizers noted that “the March for Racial Justice did not realize that September 30 was Yom Kippur when we were factoring in these and other considerations and applying for permits.”

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The organizers added: “Choosing this date, we now know, was a grave and hurtful oversight on our part.” However, the date will not be changed. “We are marching in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters who are observing the holiest of days on the Jewish calendar,” the organizers said. “Holding fast to Jewish tradition is also an act of resistance, in the face of growing anti-Semitism.”

Greenberg Heidemann acknowledged that the organizers of the March for Racial Justice had apologized for their “grave and hurtful oversight,”  but added: “The correct path moving forward would be to change the date.”

“On behalf of 250,000 alumni of the March of the Living, who have traveled to Poland to see firsthand the remnants of the Holocaust and the devastating results of prejudice and hatred, we implore with the organizers of the March for Racial Justice to do the right thing: change the date of the March so that no-one is excluded,” she said. “Only then, will it truly be a march for justice.”

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