M4RJ Yom Kippur Statement
The core leadership of the March for Racial Justice regrets the scheduling conflict of the September 30 date for the March for Racial Justice and the Yom Kippur holiday, the Day of Atonement. The decision to schedule the March for Racial Justice on September 30 was made in honor of the anniversary of 227 Black lives lost and 122 unjustly imprisoned during the Elaine Massacre of 1919, considered one of the largest mass lynchings in the history of the United States.
The core leadership of the March for Racial Justice recognizes and celebrates the historical unity between African Americans and Americans of the Jewish faith. These two communities are natural partners, as each have a history of persecution and discrimination. This unity was exemplified by the friendship of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King who marched together from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. When asked why he joined Dr. King for the march, Rabbi Heschel replied, "when I marched in Selma, my feet were praying."
When we discussed the date of our March with Rabbi Hannah Spiro, she stated that this march might be a powerful opportunity for Jews to pray with their feet in between services on Yom Kippur afternoon. Rabbi Spiro pointed out that many members of Jewish faith will prefer to spend the day in silent reflection, and that the fast may not allow for many to come out - but that some Jews may find it powerful to know that this march is happening in parallel with their fast; in the spirit of Isaiah 58, which calls for a “fast that breaks every yoke and lets the oppressed go free.”
Our hope as the core leadership for the March for Racial Justice is that we can emulate the spirit and bond between Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel for our country and the world to bear witness to our determination to come together in love and unity. We hope that the occurrence this year of Yom Kippur and the Elaine Massacre anniversary on the same date can be a another point of solidarity and the continuation of a long and powerful history.