PAC marks Mississippi murders anniversary with yahrzeit candles, actions targeting Trump

Ron Kampeas

The FBI poster circulated before Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner's bodies were found. (Wikimedia Commons)

The FBI poster circulated before Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner’s bodies were found. (Wikimedia Commons)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A liberal Jewish political action committee is marking the anniversary of the murders of three civil rights workers with a call to action against Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Vigils will be held in four cities on June 21, the 52nd anniversary of the 1964 murders in Mississippi of Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney, Bend the Arc-Jewish Action announced on Monday. The cities are New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Austin, Texas.

Additionally, people wishing to participate will later this week be able to order yahrzeit, or Jewish  memorial candles and signs saying “We’ve seen this before” from the PAC’s website, and will be encouraged to post selfies online and to organize vigils in their hometowns.

“We are doing this both as commemoration and in memory of the values that they held and the legacy that they had fighting for democracy and fighting for a country that was free of political danger,” Stosh Cotler, the CEO of the PAC’s affiliated advocacy non-profit, Bend the Arc, told JTA.

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Ku Klux Klan members murdered Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman, who were campaigning for black voting rights in the south. Schwerner and Goodman were Jewish and Chaney was African American. The three have become a symbol of black-Jewish cooperation, invoked by President Barack Obama among others.

“It is an opportunity for us as the Jewish community to come out and demonstrate our horror at a possible Trump candidacy and to say we’re going to fight for the democracy that we so deeply believe in,” Cotler said.

A number of Jewish groups have, with varying degrees of outspokenness, condemned aspects of Trump’s policies rhetoric, particularly his broadsides against Muslims, Hispanics and women.

Cotler said that Goodman’s brother, David, who runs a foundation in his brother’s name that funds liberal causes, had been informed of the initiative.

The vigils will take place on the Gregorian calendar anniversary of the murders, June 21. The Hebrew calendar yahrzeit for Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney is the 12th of Av, falling this year on Aug. 16.

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