Today marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, an event drawing people of different races, geographies, economic backgrounds, and religions together to support racial equality. One group that played a large and often overlooked role was the Jewish American community. American Jews helped to establish many of the organizations that planned the March on Washington, including the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee (SNCC). According the Religious Action Center:
“During the Civil Rights Movement, Jewish activists represented a disproportionate number of whites involved in the struggle. Jews made up half of the young people who participated in the Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964. Leaders of the Reform Movement were arrested with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1964 after a challenge to racial segregation in public accommodations. Most famously, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched arm-in-arm with Dr. King in his 1965 March on Selma.”
Fifty years later, the Jewish commitment to equality continues. Forty-six percent of Jews consider the commitment to social equality the most important quality to their Jewish identity. Eighty-four percent of Jews say pursuing justice is an important Jewish value (with fifty-two percent of Jews saying it is a very important value) that informs their political beliefs and political activity. Jewish Americans connect their personal religious values and political behavior, with seventy-six percent of Jews saying synagogues should be engaged in public policy advocacy to address social problems. And as the high holidays approach, many Jews around the world consider anew their commitment to equality and dedication to social justice.