6 Jewish Ideas for Your Activist March Signs
In the early 1980s, I was a camper in the UAHC Camp Swig Hevrah unit. In addition to the usual fun camp activities, this particular unit at camp focused on social justice. Our theme that summer was Soviet Jewry, and during our three weeks, we learned the ins and outs of the issues, heard stories about Soviet Jews, and explored what we could do to make a difference. During the last few days of the session, we traveled to San Francisco to march in solidarity with Soviet Jews, equipped with “Save Soviet Jewry” banners and T-shirts, ready to perform, sing, and make our voices heard.
I learned two things from this experience. The first was that, when working together, people can truly make a difference. When faced with the struggles of our world, we often ask, “What can one person do?” But that summer, I learned that when we join our voices with others, we can be louder and let the leadership of our country know that there are people who care and who are watching.
I also learned that I could participate in social justice work not only as an American but also as Jew. When Camp Swig went to San Francisco, we went as Jews and wore that identity proudly on signs and T-shirts proclaiming our faith. Part of what makes Americans strong is our diversity. Showing my Jewish identity proudly is part of that strength.
On January 21st, 2017, I took my children to Washington, D.C., to march at the Women’s March on Washington. I marched as a woman who believes in the rights of all people – regardless of gender, color, religion, ethnicity, ability, or income. I combined my voice with thousands of others to amplify our deepest desire that all people are treated with respect and honor. We marched as Jews, proud of our heritage that compels us to not stand idly by, and just like I did years ago with my Camp Swig community, we held our signs high. We not only proclaimed that we are part of an American tradition of demonstrating and speaking out for others, but also that we are part of a Jewish tradition of being tzedek tirdof – pursuers of justice.
If you're marching or participating in an upcoming protest, I encourage you to let your American and Jewish voice be heard. Here are some ideas, inspired by our tradition, for your march signs.
- “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof – Justice, justice you shall pursue!” Deuteronomy 16:20
- “Praying with my feet” – Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
- "A righteous person falls down seven times and GETS UP!" Proverbs, 24:16
- "I don't speak because I have the power to speak; I speak because I don't have the power to remain silent" – Rabbi A.Y. Kook
- “If I am not for me, who is for me; and if I am (only) for myself, what am I. And if not now, when?” – Hillel, Pirke Avot, 1:14
- “Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God” – Micah 6:8 (For the Women’s March, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism adapted this sentiment for their march signs, which read “Do Justice, Love Mercy, March Proudly”)
We’d love to hear how your Jewish values influence your march signs. Tweet us to let us know!
To learn more about Reform Jewish summer camps and other summer programs, visit URJYouth.org.