While many Jewish women around the country decided not to take part in Saturday’s Women’s March in Washington, D.C., a number of Jewish women in the Greater Phoenix area did participate in the third annual Women’s March Phoenix, which is not affiliated with the national Women’s March organization.
Prior to the event, Women’s March Phoenix co-organizer Eva Burch posted on the event’s Facebook page that she “denounce[s] anti-Semitism in the strongest terms, and will make sure to collaborate with Jewish leaders.”
Among the women Burch invited to speak at the Phoenix march was Miriam Weisman, the former board chair of the Arizona regional Anti-Defamation League. Weisman agreed to speak at the event because the Phoenix march had divorced itself from the national movement.
“Whatever is happening in Washington, D.C., isn’t happening here in Phoenix,” Weisman said. “The women here would never join back with national. They’re open and inclusive. What are people if we don’t accept the good other people are trying to do?”
The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) did not support the national event in D.C., and NCJW State Public Advocate for Arizona Carol Consalvo chose not to attend the Phoenix march either.
“As the daughter of German Jewish refugees in 1938 and 1939, my instincts are to stand up against all forms of hate,” she said. “This was the trigger for me personally in not endorsing, co-sponsoring or personally attending the march in Phoenix.”
Consalvo said the local NCJW board of directors gave her the green light to state her opposition to the event, even as she knows that the local march organizers were very inclusive and even urged her to participate alongside them.
“In the two previous marches in Phoenix, our section, our friends, and yes, our husbands and significant others, were there in full support,” Consalvo said. “I sincerely hope the leadership on the national level of the Women’s March will find their way to becoming less divisive so myself and the section can continue to support the goals and resolutions of our mutual mission.”
Though the two marches were decidedly separate, there were some at the local march who were aware of the controversy that has dogged the marches across the country. At least one Jewish woman in the crowd of thousands at the Arizona State Capitol was holding a sign denouncing anti-Semitism.
Arizona State University student Aleeza Kaplan’s sign read, “NO ANTI-SEMITISM IN MY FEMINISM.” She said it was her way of standing up to the national movement.
“I’m here today to show people my narrative that Jewish people deserve to have a role in feminism,” said Kaplan. On the far left, she added, “there is a watered-down narrative of Jews and Israel being the oppressor and Palestinians being the oppressed.”
Although she didn’t feel safe or comfortable going to the march in Washington, D.C., with her friends this year, she felt empowered in Phoenix.
African American activist Marrissa Wilson said she took part for the compassion and unity of women.
“I was really happy to see so many women come together. I see a lot of signs that say women with disabilities, immigrants, people of color … I like the vibe here,” Wilson said.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety estimated 6,700 attended this year’s march. In 2018, DPS estimated that 20,000 people had descended on the Arizona State Capitol for the march. The greater attendance may have been fueled in part by intense interest in the midterm elections. Last year’s event was dubbed the Women’s March to the Polls. JN