NEW YORK CITY (JTA) -– Jewish actress Mayim Bialik called out the March for Racial Justice for taking place on Yom Kippur. In a Facebook post Sunday, Aug.13, Bialik complained that the timing of the march against white supremacy, scheduled for Sept. 30 in Washington, D.C., excludes Jews, who traditionally spend Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, fasting and praying.
“anyone else think that’s absurd?,”she wrote in a mostly lowercase text. “i mean, it automatically excludes a distinct portion of people who historically have stood up for racial equality in enormous ways.”
Bialik, a star of “The Big Bang Theory” TV sitcom, publicly embraces her Jewish identity and practice. She said that she doubted that the scheduling was an oversight, saying, “And trust me: it’s on every calendar they checked before setting the date.”
Earlier Sunday, March for Racial Justice organizers posted their own statement on Facebook in which they apologized for the “scheduling conflict” and voiced appreciation for the Jews’ history of progressive activism. They repeatedly singled out Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who famously marched alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
“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 statement said. “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.”
No Plans to ReSchedule
The March for Racial Justice describes itself as “a multi-community movement led by a coalition united in our demands for racial equity and justice.”
However, the organizers made clear there were no plans to reschedule the march. They explained that the date had been chosen to honor the 1919 Elaine race riot, in which white mobs attacked and killed dozens of African-Americans in Arkansas.
Rabbi Sees Opportunity
Rabbi Hannah Spiro, a Reconstructionist rabbi who leads Hill Havurah in Washington, advised the organizers that the march “might be a powerful opportunity for Jews to pray with their feet in between services on Yom Kippur afternoon,” they said, referencing Heschel’s famous quote about the significance of his marching.
The organizers added that Spiro warned 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.”
The organizers expressed hope that “we can emulate the spirit and bond between Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel” and 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.”
Earlier this month, organizers of the North Carolina Pride parade changed the schedule of their annual event, which was to fall on Yom Kippur this year, to accommodate the Jewish community.
While Bialik did not directly reference the March for Racial Justice’s statement in her Facebook post, she pointed out that she named her second son after Heschel and concluded, “argh, super mad right now.”