Peacemongers rally in Dallas
by Tamara Stokes
Hundreds of thousands of protesters around the world gathered this weekend to express a desire for peace and hopefully to stave off a war with Iraq. Dallas was no exception with an estimated 1,500 making a non-violent pilgrimage through downtown Dallas Feb. 15. The event was sponsored by the Dallas Coalition Against War in Iraq and in part by the Dallas Peace Center.
Paul and Barbara Bierbrier and Cynthia, Fonya and Allan Mondell represented members of the Dallas Jewish community who value world peace.
"I would march again this afternoon and do anything to prevent our country from going to war," said Barbara in a Monday afternoon interview with DJW.
Bierbrier said she saw no trace of anti-Israeli sentiment from any of the protesters.
"I had a great time. I was sad I didn't see more members from the Dallas Jewish community participate," said Bierbrier.
"I was most impressed by the diversity of the crowd," said Cynthia. "I think this is an important demonstration against this war, where people will be killed unnecessarily. I hope the president listens to us and realizes war is not the answer."
Mondell said even more impressive were the conservative groups marching together. Members from Christian churches, Buddhist temples, local mosques, The University of Dallas (Catholic) campus, The Green Party and Amnesty International were among the many groups represented, walking side-by-side on this issue when divided on issues such as pro-choice. There was not an organized representation from one specific Jewish group in the march.
Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt, director of education for the Dallas Area Torah Association (DATA) in Plano said, "First and foremost, the march took place on Shabbat, and in the Orthodox and Conservative observant communities, members don't walk anywhere." Rosenblatt said overall he believes the community sees strength as establishing peace in the Middle East, and points to the Israel's occupation of Golan Heights to support this view. He said the Western philosophy of negotiation may be perceived as a weakness in the Middle East, and although overwhelmingly "we all want peace," Rosenblatt said that synagogues have to stay neutral with regard to politics.
Marlene Gorin, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), said that because the JCRC, Federation and Jewish Community Centers of Greater Dallas represent the entire Jewish community, there would never be a sponsored event with delegates from these organizations during Shabbat. She explained that even though the JCRC supported many civil rights and interfaith programs and were members of a variety of councils, there were be no official representation by her organization at events during Shabbat.
Joyce Hall, a member of Pax Christi USA, said that she also marched Jan. 18 in Washington, D.C. She said, "There were 200,000 to 300,000 in Washington." Not to diminish the importance of the number of people "walking the walk" in Dallas, Hall said the event was "perhaps the largest demonstration since the Vietnam war to take place in Dallas."
Organizers wrapped a replica of the Statue of Liberty in duct tape and plastic, a sly reference to media suggestions to use those materials around their doors and windows to impede bio-terroristic attacks, the symbolism not lost on the people who were encouraged to raise their voices.
Clever slogans, such as "Girls say yes to boys who say no to bombs," and chants, "1,2,3,4, we don't want a stinking war," with more solemn slogans such as "Wars kill children" were carried or shouted by the crowd as they marched from the Cathedral de Guadalupe to the Kennedy Memorial. Those supporting President George W. Bush and the belief that war is necessary had civil exchanges with the peace demonstrators, but were far outnumbered.
Hall said the tremendous response, in spite of the cold weather and high winds, "shows how everyone can get along."
This story was published in the DallasJewishWeek
on: Friday, February 21, 2003