Robert Silverman

We need a ‘Million Jew March’ on Washington now

To the American Jewish Leadership: Hamas and its allies need to see that the wider public doesn't support them,
Israel supporters gather at the National Mall in Washington DC, Saturday, October 28, 2023 (Courtesy)
Israel supporters gather at the National Mall in Washington DC, Saturday, October 28, 2023 (Courtesy)

Dear William Daroff, Eric Fingerhut, Jonathan Greenblatt and Ted Deutch,

“What can we do?” This is what I often hear from American Jewish friends since October 7. They are worried but also outraged; they are waiting for our leaders to show a path towards collective action. I think that path is clear. As heads of national Jewish organizations, you should now mobilize the entire Jewish community in America for a Million Jew March on Washington. United with our allies, we must show our determination to support Israel at this critical time, demand the release of all hostages, and reject the intimidation of antisemites in the US.

The American Jewish community has gone big before. In 1987, when the Soviet Union refused to let Jews emigrate, we organized Freedom Sunday. Over 250,000 American and Canadian Jews gathered on the National Mall to demand that the Soviets “Let our People Go.” One of your predecessors, David Harris, was the national coordinator of that effort. He explains that the activists for Soviet Jewry had less than 30 days to organize this campaign. The national Jewish organizations worked together, organized buses and speakers, and reached out to the local federations and the synagogues. Jewish communities from Miami to Los Angeles from Houston to Toronto showed up on a bitterly cold day in December. We can do it again.

Look, gentlemen, Hamas has just murdered over 1,400 of our brothers, sisters and friends in Israel and taken over 200 hostages, including babies, children and elderly. Hamas supporters in the US are marching on college campuses and in our city streets. They are often getting sympathetic media coverage.

To the Hamas leaders watching from bunkers in Gaza and offices in Doha, Ankara and Moscow, it appears that they are winning over a significant segment of the American public. Indeed, they may yet win the information war even while losing – thanks to Israel – the military war.

In addition to the six-million-strong Jewish community, we have built networks of allies and friends in all of the other American communities. I founded two successful ongoing outreach efforts to the American Muslim community and even there we have allies who would join in such a march. Many of our friends are equally outraged and looking for leadership as to what to do next. Jews have marched with our friends and allies from the civil rights movement in the 1960s through the 2017 protests against the Muslim ban. Now it is time for our friends to march with us. One side benefit of organizing such a march will be to discover just who is with us and who is not, both within and without the Jewish community.

Gentlemen, this no doubt will be challenging. Voices in our community will say – as they said in 1987 and in other times when Jews went public – that we will stir up antisemites. That’s possible, and we will have to coordinate with police and take security precautions. But that is not a reason not to act. This is your time to unite your organizations, the larger Jewish community and our allies for collective action.

Our community must rise to the challenge presented by this moment – and quickly. Hamas and its allies need to see that the American public doesn’t support them, that they will win neither the military nor the information war.

About the Author
A former US diplomat and president of the American Foreign Service Association, Robert Silverman is a lecturer at Shalem College, senior fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, Executive Editor of the Jerusalem Strategic Tribune and president of IJMA - the Inter Jewish Muslim Alliance ( @silverrj99