On January 20, 2017, at 12:00 p.m. ET the 45th president of the United States was sworn into office.
The next day, throughout the world, women and men alike joined together in the streets to march against hatred, sexism, persecution, and bigotry among other points of division. Many WRJ women took part in those protests and demanded equality for all and a stop to oppression.
One year later, women and men once again entered the streets to continue this fight. We asked a few WRJ women to share their experiences at the 2017 march and to look back and reflect on this year of change and on what still needs to be accomplished in the future.
Trina Novak is waiting at the train platform in Newton, Massachusetts to get to Boston. Trina, an active member of the WRJ Northeast District, traveled to the march with other WRJ friends. As they waited at the platform, multiple trains passed by without stopping because they were already at their maximum capacity.
“We ended up calling an Uber and bringing along a random college student who we befriended at the station,” Trina said. “When she offered to split the ride, we said it was on us because this day was really for all of us.”
Trina described the crowd as almost overstimulating to the senses, making even finding a place to stand without touching a neighbor a difficult task. Nevertheless, Trina said she was happy to stand and march for a purpose.
“I was raised especially by my mother, and she raised a person who is going to stand up for what is right,” Trina said.
Trina compared the 2017 Women’s March to her days of protesting the Vietnam War and to the days prior to the Roe v. Wade decision when she helped many of her friends sneak away to have abortions.
“To me, it was very important to say no because the world seems to be pulling back in this nationalistic tendency,” Trina said. “We don’t want our country to turn into what Germany was like before the Second World War.”
Although last year she marched for women’s rights worldwide, Trina said she did not plan to attend a Women’s March in 2018. Due to the increased presence of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions and pro-Palestine movements in the march’s planning, she felt the goal of women’s equality with intersectionality was not met.
“You can’t say you are all inclusive and then leave a group out,” Trina said. “The thing that disturbs me is that it seems that you can’t be Jewish and support Israel and be a feminist.”
Trina said that feminism shaped her identity, eventually leading her to the Reform Movement.
“It’s going to take a lot of eyes on the news and ears on the ground,” Trina said. “Now comes the work part.”
Carol Stoler is standing in the rain among a multi-generational crowd of 100,000 people.
“I am part of something bigger and part of history,” Carol said.
Looking back, Carol said the day started as hopeful, but then became mixed with a bit of anger that this march had to exist at all.
She marched because she felt that women have been treated as unequal. She felt that men’s contributions are often more valued, yet we all bring something of worth to the table.
“The overall goal was to be heard,” Carol said. “To show that we are somebody and that we should be valued.”
Carol said she believes this goal will take time to be fully met because societal attitudes are so difficult to change. Because of the marches, however, women are standing up now more than ever.
“You can’t just change people’s attitudes overnight,” Carol said. “It comes down to raising our kids to understand that what women do are valued.”
Carol described herself as a pretty quiet person, but she felt so strongly about playing a part in starting the incremental societal change that she felt she needed to march.
“By going out, it shows you are not alone in this,” Carol said. “It’s not just a few rabble-rousers.”
Carol serves as the president of Kol Ami Women of Reform Judaism in Vancouver, Washington and although she is not Jewish herself, she sees these acts of advocacy as the “Jewish thing” to do.
“I feel that social action is integral; it’s a part of tikkun olam,” Carol said. “We need to go out and make a difference.”
Carol also shared this experience with her daughters; one marched in Portland with her, and the other participated in San Francisco.
“I am happy to hold onto this feeling of bonding with my own daughters,” Carol said.
Since the one-year anniversary of the Women’s March, Carol said she has noticed she is becoming more involved in advocacy and social justice efforts.
“There are incremental changes to be made, and I am now realizing these incremental changes are happening in my life too,” Carol said.
Lindie Henderson has just arrived at the march in Sacramento, California. She is one of 20,000 people participating in the march within her state’s capital.
Lindie said she was marching because it felt like something she could do as a response to both the election and the state of women in the world.
“I think we’ve got a lot of work still to do,” Lindie said. “We live in a world perfectly imbalanced and awful. I don’t think that this march will change that, but this can begin a change.”
Lindie marched with other WRJ women and she said she felt comfort knowing WRJ was marching all over the world.
Lindie grew up in a family passionate about activism and as a result, she was raised to understand the responsibility of voting and became very involved in politics.
“We need our voices heard and our faces seen,” Lindie said.
Sandi Firsel is in the middle of 250,000 other people voicing their frustrations and apprehensions about the future at the Chicago, Illinois Women’s March. She sees a sea of pink hats filled with all different facets of people of all kinds who would be affected by the administration.
“It was powerful that we were all united even though there were so many issues people were marching for,” Sandi said.
Sandi explained the feeling of the entire day as empowering because it helped the participants gain a sense that they were making a difference.
“I feel that there are many things that people can do but they sometimes feel they are helpless,” Sandi said.
The promise of change was achieved from this day in Sandi’s eyes, and the second goal would be to keep this momentum going.
This year, Sandi volunteered to be a marshal for the march in Chicago, helping manage the human traffic of the more than 300,000 people that came out on January 20, 2018.
This volunteer position was created by march organizers with the intention to reach past the day of the march to help spread education, resources, and advocacy in an effort to continue momentum all the way to the polls this fall. Sandi connected back her current advocacy work to her involvement within WRJ, particularly as a member of the resolutions committee.
“I think being active in WRJ has given me an avenue to become active in social advocacy,” Sandi said.
Hillary Handwerger is marching alongside her WRJ sisters in New York City, New York. Hillary is in town from Ann Arbor, Michigan for the WRJ budget meeting and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to march for women worldwide.
“I get exacerbated easily around how women are being treated,” Hillary said.
Therefore, she felt the need to march, to make some effect.
Attending the march in 2017 for her was a last-minute decision but she said that protesting when people are trying to take away rights is part of her makeup.
“It’s part of my WRJ identity and my Jewish identity,” Hillary said.
Hillary went on to discuss how so much of Judaism is about taking care rather than putting down. This act was replicated in her marching.
The goal of the march, according to Hillary, was to be heard. She emphasized that women have rights too and are becoming the majority.
Due to health complications, Hillary could not participate in a march this year, but she said if she had been able to, she would have marched again.
“It was a wonderful experience, especially identifying as a woman,” Hillary said. “Having said that, we need to continue to be more socially active and make sure women’s rights stay front and center.”
Sara Charney, WRJ first vice president-elect, is heading back to the WRJ office after marching with Hillary, among other WRJ sisters, in New York City, New York.
Rabbi Marla Feldman, Executive Director of WRJ, had held a brunch at her home prior to the start of the march for anyone in the area.
“When Marla posted that there was going to be a march, I knew I wanted to participate,” Sara said. “I felt strongly that it was important to send a message even though I am not an American.”
Sara, a resident of Toronto, Ontario, said she felt holding the U.S. government accountable was a personal responsibility.
The buoyant crowd full of smiles and power allowed Sara to march for the right for a woman to choose, for affordable healthcare, and to show solidarity with her American sisters and brothers, among other things.
“From my perspective, the goal was to show the incoming administration that women’s rights are important, and that the administration needs to be aware it can’t run over women,” Sara said.
Sara said she had never marched against another nation’s leader for anything like this before, but she is in a position that she can lend her voice.
“I feel fortunate that I have a voice and with WRJ, this voice has become louder,” Sara said.
After having shared this experience with her WRJ sisters and with her daughter who attended a sister march, Sara said she felt fantastic.
“I think certainly women have felt more empowered and supported by this different generation of women,” Sara said. “Everyone’s eyes are being opened to how we treat one another and behave appropriately and respect each other.”
Laura Charney is reflecting on her day after marching through downtown Toronto with one of her best friends from England at the sister Women’s March in Toronto, Canada.
Laura, a recent graduate and member of Holy Blossom Sisterhood in Toronto, held a sign saying, “Nasty Woman Against White Supremacy” as she passed many mothers and daughters holding other signage such as “I can’t believe I still have to protest this.”
Laura described that day as full of righteous anger.
“Even though it wasn’t our prime minister as the subject at hand, the march still addressed subjects that are important in Canada,” Laura said.
Laura said she was mainly marching for women’s rights but as a white woman who is also Jewish, she comes from a place of privilege but understands coming from persecution.
“I was marching because I’m fed up with men who are perpetrators of sexual assault, men who get away with racism, who are being awarded for these things,” Laura said. “And I don’t want to be in a world that awards racism and sexism.”
In terms of policy, Laura said the marches did not make a difference. Regardless, she said change occurs through people, not policy.
“The goal was to show that we are angry, and we are going to fight back,” Laura said. “We are in this together and we are not alone.”
Laura cheered on her mother, Sara, marching in New York for the same values.
“I think we were both quite moved by the solidarity that we felt,” Laura said. “I think it’s important that WRJ takes a stand on which side of history they want to be on.”
The fact that people now in 2018 are understanding more and more that they are not alone is a success in Laura’s eyes. The fight will continue until all women’s voices are represented.
“I wouldn’t say that I was raised in an activist household, but I was raised to speak my mind,” Laura said.
Alyson Malinger is the advocacy and communications associate for WRJ. If you have any questions about WRJ's advocacy efforts, please contact Alyson (firstname.lastname@example.org).