When a six-car train pulls out of Penn Station at 5:30 on Sunday morning, it won’t be full of the sleepy commuters who usually occupy Amtrak’s seats. Instead it will bear the banner “Pro-Faith, Pro-Family, Pro-Choice Express,” and be filled with Jews, Protestants and even a few Catholics traveling together to Washington for the March for Women’s Lives.
The rally, being billed as the largest march for reproductive rights in U.S. history, is expected to attract as many as a million people marching on The Mall. Several Jewish groups are backing the demonstration, including the Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform movements, and women’s groups Hadassah, National Council of Jewish Women, Na’amat and Women’s American ORT.
Sunday’s train, which is starting in Boston and picking up just over half of its 300 riders in New York on the way to Washington, has been organized by the New York affiliate of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
At least two-thirds of the people getting on in New York are Jewish, said Melanie Schneider, director of RCRC’s New York region. Plenty of mother-daughter duos and three-generation family groups will be part of the contingent, she said.
Also on board will be Rabbi Perry Rank, president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly; Rabbi Jacqueline Ellenson, director of the Reform movement’s Women’s Rabbinic Network; and Rabbi Amy Small, president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association.
Once on board, feminist theologian Judith Plaskow and the Rev. Melanie Miller of the United Church of Christ will lead study sessions — Plaskow on religious notions of brokenness and repair, and Rev. Miller on sexuality education.
There will also be a few people with guitars and lots of singing of freedom songs, Schneider said.
Once in D.C., train riders will attend an interfaith service coordinated by the RCRC, and then on to the rally before rolling back up the East Coast in the evening.
Member groups of the RCRC include affiliates of the United Methodist Church, Episcopal Church, Catholics for Free Choice and more liberal Protestant denominations, along with Jewish groups.
Rabbi Ellenson said she is going to the march with a religious motivation.
“Equality of access to health care, access to education and reproductive choice are all values that come out of the religious worldview that ‘This is what God wants me to do,’ ” she said.