Declaring “We’ve Seen This Before,” a Jewish social justice organization, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, led thousands of voters on June 21 in protests against Donald Trump’s hateful politics. Protesters gathered in vigils in cities and homes across the country as part of a national Jewish-led day of action opposing Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.
The vigils, which memorialize the lives of three slain Civil Rights workers, followed the presumptive Republican nominee’s bigoted and divisive response to the horrific attack on the LGBT community in Orlando last week, in which 49 people were killed. Rather than responding to the tragedy with a message of sympathy and unity, Mr. Trump doubled down on hate by blaming the entire American Muslim community for a lone criminal’s actions and repeating his proposal to ban Muslim immigration to the United States.
“Donald Trump has put forth a terrifying anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-woman and violent agenda,” said Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc Jewish Action, who addressed the vigil in New York City. “Jews have seen this before. Many of our relatives fled to the United States to escape violence and discrimination from around the world. Now, we are joining together to fight for a better country in this generation, and to deliver a clear message: Donald Trump will not become president of the United States on our watch.”
In New York City, Bend the Arc supporters rallied outside of Trump Tower before marching to the Marriott Marquis, where Mr. Trump was meeting with evangelical leaders. Bend the Arc activists and allies also held vigils in Chicago, Raleigh, Washington DC, San Francisco, Palo Alto, the East Bay, and Los Angeles, while thousands of American Jews participated by holding vigils in their homes nationwide. Locally there was a vigil in Ardmore at the home of Carol and Steve Shore. The actions in Washington and Los Angeles were co-sponsored by Jews United For Justice Campaign Fund and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, respectively.
The actions represented a major expansion in Bend the Arc Jewish Action’s efforts to defeat Donald Trump; supporters who participated in the vigils committed to work diligently through November to defeat Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
The vigils also marked the anniversary of the day in 1964 when two white Jewish activists, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner, along with Black Christian activist James Chaney, were murdered in Mississippi because of their work to register black voters. By mobilizing voters to stop Mr. Trump’s campaign, Bend the Arc will honor the legacy of these civil rights heroes and carry on their fight against violence and oppression in American society.
Background: Who were Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner? Excerpt from the website for the “Freedom Summer” documentary on PBS.org: “On June 21, 1964, three young men disappeared near the town of Philadelphia, Mississippi. Michael (Mickey) Schwerner and James Chaney worked for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in nearby Meridian; Andrew Goodman was one of the hundreds of college students from across the country who volunteered to work on voter registration, education, and Civil Rights as part of the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project. The three men believed their work was necessary, but also dangerous: Ku Klux Klan membership in Mississippi was soaring in 1964 — with membership reaching more than 10,000. The Klan was prepared to use violence to fight the Civil Rights movement; on April 24 the group offered a demonstration of its power, staging 61 simultaneous cross burnings throughout the state. “Upon returning to Mississippi, Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney visited the charred remains of Mt. Zion [Methodist Church in Longdale, Mississippi. The church had been burned to the ground by the KKK.] On the drive back [from Longdale] to Meridian, [Mississippi, the local CORE headquarters,] their station wagon, known to law enforcement as a CORE vehicle, was stopped, and police arrested all three….[ Neshoba County sheriff’s deputy Cecil] Price returned a little after 10pm, collected Chaney’s speeding fine — with no Justice of the Peace — and told the three men to get out of the county. They were never seen alive again… “Finally, after six weeks of searching, a tip from an informant — later identified as Mississippi Highway Patrol officer Maynard King — sent investigators to an earthen dam on the Old Jolly Farm outside Philadelphia [Mississippi]. It was there that the FBI uncovered the bodies of Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman on August 4.”
What is a Yahrzeit? The Yiddish word “Yahrzeit” literally means “time of year,” and the observance of a yahrzeit is to mark the anniversary of the death of a loved one through the custom of lighting a yahrzeit candle to honor their memory. Some view the yahrzeit candle as a reminder of the fragility of life, while others consider it to be symbolic of the soul of the departed. For the past three years, Bend the Arc has brought people together to recognize the yahrzeit of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner to keep their story alive in a new era of modern-day voter suppression, racial injustice, and political violence. In fact, a Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner yahrzeit candle is preserved in the archives of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History [in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] as a demonstration of our community’s deep commitment to civil rights.
Bend the Arc Jewish Action is a national organization inspired by Jewish values and the steadfast belief that Jewish Americans, regardless of religious or institutional affiliations, are compelled to create justice and opportunity for Americans.