NEW YORK (JTA) — Alyssa Weinstein-Sears and her husband, Joe, try hard to empower their 11-year-old daughter and teach her about being politically involved.
“In the 2016 election, she was very pro-Hillary and I took her into the voting both with me, and I let her push all the buttons. And we think it’s really important for her to stand up for women’s rights,” Weinstein-Sears said.
That’s why the 28-year-old considered taking her daughter with her this year to the Women’s March, either in Washington, D.C., or in Houston, where they live.
But Weinstein-Sears, who works as an educator at Houston’s Holocaust museum, and her daughter will not be attending the march on Saturday after all.
The reason: Weinstein-Sears can’t get on board with a movement whose leaders she feels have failed to adequately condemn anti-Semitism.
“It’s really difficult to be supportive of a movement that has anti-Semitic undertones when I’m trying to raise a strong Jewish daughter,” she told JTA on Monday.
She isn’t alone. In the past year, celebrities, activists and community leaders — Jewish and otherwise — have said they will not attend the march and called on the national organizers to step down over claims that they have not done enough to disavow anti-Semitism.
It all started when Women’s March co-founder and organizer Tamika Mallory attended a speech by and praised Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has a long history of making anti-Jewish and homophobic statements. Though the Women’s March organizers eventually disavowed Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism, many believed their response took too long and did not go far enough in denouncing him.
More recently, a report in Tablet said that Mallory and fellow organizer Carmen Perez had made anti-Semitic statements at two Women’s March planning meetings, claims the organizers deny. On Monday, Mallory appeared on “The View,” where she failed to outright condemn Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic comments.
A number of organizations have cut ties with the group: The National Council of Jewish Women and the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York, for example, are no longer sponsoring the Washington march.
“In an ideal world we’d love to be able to endorse [the national Women’s March], but in the real world there are concerns,” National Council of Jewish Women CEO Nancy Kaufman told JTA last month as her organization was weighing whether to sign up as a 2019 sponsor.
The Southern Poverty Law Center and the prominent liberal political action committee Emily’s List also have stopped supporting the march, the Daily Beast reported last week.
Jeff Migliozzi, a communications assistant at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told JTA that the organization believes “supporting the local communities around us with their marches is of greater priority at this time.” Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam is designated as a hate group by the center.
Last week, the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, a major Reform congregation in New York, announced that it was disassociating itself from Women’s March Inc., the D.C. movement’s parent organization, specifically citing anti-Semitism as a concern.
The controversy has damaged the reputation of a movement that surged in the wake of its first march on Jan. 21, 2017, the day after President Donald Trump was inaugurated. Streets in cities around the world turned pink, as millions of women marched — many wearing wool “pussy hats” to protest Trump’s past lewd remarks about sexual assault — in support of a range of issues, including gender equality, LGBTQ rights and racial justice. The day offered a searing rebuke to Trump’s rhetoric and seemed to be a galvanizing point for the anti-Trump left, uniting women (and many men) across racial, socioeconomic and geographic divisions.
Since then, independent Women’s March chapters have sprouted across the country with various affiliations. While some are associated with Women’s March Inc., others are independent. Some are affiliated with March On, created by Vanessa Wruble, the Jewish organizer of the 2017 national march who reportedly was the subject of the alleged anti-Semitic remarks by Perez and Mallory.
Two years later, things look a little — or a lot — more gloomy, depending on whom you ask.
Alexandra Ozeri, a 34-year old writer, shares Weinstein-Sears’ feeling that the national organizers have not done enough to condemn anti-Semitism. Still, she will be attending a Women’s March rally in Los Angeles, where she lives.
“I think we need to speak for ourselves and let people know that we do have progressive values as Jewish women and that they can’t just exclude us,” she said.
Ozeri says she was comforted to learn that the founder of her local chapter is a Jewish woman who has distanced her group from the national movement.
“That makes me feel safer and more interested,” she told JTA.
Emiliana Guereca, the Los Angeles founder, says that many people do not realize her group is not part of the national organization. Total donations to her chapter are down by about 60 percent, as are the number of organizations willing to partner with the group, she told JTA last month.
“I think we’ve spent the entire month of December responding to all of this, and we’re going to continue to respond. That for us stops the work from happening,” she said.
Jan Huttner, 67, finds Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic comments “despicable,” but says she will still be marching.
“Given the importance of unity in this case, I refuse to center myself ‘as a Jew’ in this controversy,” Huttner, a Brooklyn resident and the editor of a media company that writes about films made by women, told JTA in a Facebook message.
To cut through the confusion, JTA has created a guide that shows which states’ marches have ties with the national organization. Of the marches being held this year, JTA was able to confirm that 12 are affiliated with Women’s March Inc. Meanwhile, organizations in 22 states are holding unaffiliated marches. Women’s March organizations in the remaining states either aren’t hosting marches, do not have contact information available, or did not return or refused to answer requests for comments by JTA about their affiliation. We will update this page if we hear back from any of those chapters.
Chapters with ties to Women’s March Inc. (11):
Idaho: Women’s March on Idaho Falls confirmed that it is affiliated with the national organization but also said ” [we] really just do what we want locally.”
Illinois: Women’s March — Illinois confirmed to JTA that it is “an affiliated chapter of Women’s March Inc.”
Indiana: The chapter confirmed to JTA that it is affiliated with the national organization.
Maine: Its website says it is “a state affiliate of the National Women’s March Movement” and organizer Sarah Gormady said the chapter is “associated with Women’s March Inc.”
Michigan: The group is “considered an official chapter” of Women’s March Inc., though it is its own 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization, founder Phoebe Hopps told JTA. The Facebook event for Saturday’s local march says that Women’s March Michigan is its “own entity,” with its own “Michigan-based board and leadership,” and that it “will not tolerate anti-Semitism” and other forms of hatred.
New Mexico: The chapter confirmed to JTA that it is affiliated with the national organization.
Ohio: The state chapter, which is holding an event in Cleveland, confirmed to JTA that it is affiliated with the national organization. Meanwhile, a separate organization, the Dayton Women’s Rights Alliance, which is not affiliated with the Women’s March, Inc. is holding an event in the city.
Pennsylvania: Women’s March Pennsylvania, which is organizing a Philadelphia march, confirmed to JTA that it is affiliated with the national organization. Meanwhile, Philly Women Rally, an unaffiliated group, is also organizing an event in the city, founding board member Beth Finn confirmed to JTA.
Tennessee: Women’s March Tennessee confirmed to JTA that it is affiliated with the national organization, and its Facebook page describes it as “the official Tennessee chapter of Women’s March Inc.”
West Virginia: Women’s March West Virginia confirmed to JTA that it is affiliated with the national organization.
Vermont: The chapter said it is affiliated with the national organization and links to the Women’s March Inc. page on its website, but also told JTA it has “our own internal leadership structure” and does not receive funding from the Washington-based group.
Not affiliated with Women’s March Inc. (23):
Alabama: The chapter is “not officially affiliated with Women’s March National,” according to its Facebook page.
Arkansas: March On Arkansas, which organized a rally last year in Little Rock, is unaffiliated but is not putting on an event this year. Northwest Arkansas Women’s March, which is holding an event in Fayetteville, confirmed to JTA that it is “independently organized and not officially affiliated” with Women’s March Inc.
California: In a statement released last month, Women’s March California clarified that it (and the 13 chapters it represents, including Guereca’s Los Angeles group) are separate from Women’s March Inc. The organization said it “does not share leadership, structure or funding with Women’s March Inc. We do not have any input on the makeup of their board or their decision making, and we do not receive any monies from them.”
Colorado: The Womxn’s [sic] March Denver confirmed to JTA that it is not affiliated with the national organization. In a letter to the editor published last month by the Intermountain Jewish News, the Denver leadership team said the march “denounces anti-Semitism and the national Women’s March leadership team’s failure to promptly disassociate from anti-Semitic public figures.”
Connecticut: The organization is separate from the national group, but “are in conversation with them,” it said in a statement. “We will continue this conversation with Linda, Tamika, and other national organizers,” the group said.
Florida: The chapter denounced the national organizers’ ties to Farrakhan in March, clarifying in a statement that it had no ties to the organization. “We are disappointed in the National response to the condoning of Louis Farrakhan, who espouses misogyny, homophobia and anti-Semitism,” the statement read.
Georgia: The Women’s March in Atlanta is affiliated with the New York-based Women’s March Alliance rather than the national group, its founder, Gloria Moore, told JTA last month.
Iowa: Women’s March Iowa President Robin Covington initially told JTA that the group “is registered separately” in the state from the national organization but collaborates with both Women’s March Inc. and March On. After the publication of this article, Covington clarified that the chapter is not affiliated and that by “collaborating,” she had meant solely that the chapter has its march on the same day as the national organization.
Kansas: The chapter told JTA that “we aren’t currently affiliated in any official capacity” with the Washington-based organization.
Kentucky: The Kentucky National Organization for Women is hosting a march in Lexington. The group confirmed to JTA that it is not affiliated with Women’s March Inc.
Massachusetts: March Forward Massachusetts told JTA that it is not affiliated with the national group and is “a locally led and locally focused organization that is part of a global grassroots movement.”
Missouri: The St. Louis march has a disclaimer on its website saying that “We receive no funding, guidance, correspondence or resources of any kind from the National Women’s March.”
Nebraska: The Omaha Women’s March told JTA that it is not affiliated with the national organization and was holding its rally on March 10 ‘[b]ecause we wish to separate ourselves” from Women’s March Inc.
Nevada: Women’s March Reno confirmed to JTA that it is not affiliated with the national group. “We never officially joined the national and frankly have no intensions [sic] to do so,” the group said in a Facebook message.
New Hampshire: A rally in Concord is being organized by an array of groups, including Planned Parenthood New Hampshire, which told JTA that the event is associated with March On rather than Women’s March Inc.
New Jersey: The chapter told JTA that it is an “independent march” and that “We hope to see many of our NJ Jewish sisters standing shoulder to shoulder with all of us next Saturday.”
New York: The New York Women’s March Alliance is organizing a march that has no ties to Women’s March Inc. Its founder, Katherine Siemionko, has spoken out against the national women’s march leaders’ ties to Farrakhan. She has clashed with Women’s March Inc., which is organizing a separate rally in New York this year.
North Carolina: Women’s March on Raleigh told JTA that it is not affiliated with the national organization. One of its founding organizers called for the national organizers to resign over their handling of the anti-Semitism allegations in an article in The News & Observer.
Oregon: The Women’s March in Portland, which is holding its rally on March 3, is not affiliated with the national group. “[W]e share the concern of many Portlanders about problematic behaviors and statements from the National Women’s March,” it said in a statement.
Rhode Island: The group split from its parent organization in March. “They refused to hear us saying that they needed to address their own anti-Semitism,” organizer Shanna Wells told the Providence Journal.
Texas: The Houston chapter is affiliated with March On, not Women’s March Inc. “We believe no universe exists in which it is acceptable to support anti-Semitism, racism, or discrimination against LGBT people,” the organization said in a statement announcing its name change from Houston Women’s March to Houston Women March On. The Dallas Women’s March also is not affiliated with the national organization and told JTA it has “worked closely with the Jewish community” to ensure Jewish women feel welcome.
Virginia: The Women’s March Richmond, Virginia, describes itself as “a separate, independent organization from Women’s March National” on its website.
Washington: The chapter cited anti-Semitism in its decision last month to sever ties with Women’s March Inc. “We can’t betray our Jewish community by remaining a part of this organization,” director Angie Beem wrote in a Facebook post.