Women’s March Jewish outreach director: ‘Anti-Semitism can be unlearned’

In her first interview since calls began for the Women’s March leadership to resign amid allegations of anti-Semitism, Jewish director of communications Sophie Ellman-Golan speaks about confronting anti-Jewish prejudice within the movement,

The Women’s March organizers at the annual march on January 19 in Washington DC (left to right): Bob Bland, Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez

Mairav Zonszein writes in +972, “After the mass shooting of 11 American Jews in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue on October 27, the first person who called Sophie Ellman-Golan — the communications director for the Women’s March — was Linda Sarsour, in tears. She asked Ellman-Golan, “What are we going to do?” and said her next call was going to be to the Islamic Center in Pittsburgh to talk to people there about ways to support the Jewish community.”…

“Allegations of anti-Semitism within the leadership intensified after the Jewish American magazine Tablet published a report in which unnamed sources claim that co-presidents Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez said Jews played a significant role in the African slave trade, and that they berated march co-founder Vanessa Wruble for her Jewish identity. Women’s March denied both allegations.”…

Women’s March Communications Director Sophie Ellman-Golan

“In that two-hour conversation, she gave Mallory a copy of “The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere,” a widely-circulated 2007 pamphlet by Jewish American activist April Rosenblum on anti-Semitism in the left. It spawned a process over the last year that Ellman-Golan describes as “unlearning.”

“Anti-Semitism can be unlearned and addressed; it’s not an immutable characteristic to anyone. There is a better chance of addressing that on the left when you have Jewish leftists working closely with non-Jewish leftist leaders,” Ellman-Golan says.”

“Ellman-Golan says the left’s struggle to confront anti-Semitism makes Jews really vulnerable. But she is also frustrated by the inability of many in the Jewish community to see the work being done on the ground on the intersection of anti-black racism and anti-Semitism – and specifically her work as a Jewish activist and staff member inside the Women’s March. “The refusal to see the intentional efforts is infuriating. Yes, of course we should be held accountable for ways we’ve erred. But the constant erasure of the effort made – and of my very existence — is such a punch to the gut.”” (more…)

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