It’s the Year of the (Jewish Democratic) Woman – And Their First Primaries Are Tomorrow (Tuesday)


The first regularly scheduled primaries of 2018 are set for tomorrow, and it’s exciting to see hundreds of well qualified candidates running for federal office. We’re particularly excited by the enthusiasm among women and we both want to share with you this article focusing on the Jewish women running for the U.S. House and Senate. It’s by no means an endorsement of all of them; many of us already may be supporting other candidates in some of these races. Even so, we take pride that almost a dozen Jewish women are running anew for federal office and we wish these fellow Jews well in the days and months ahead.

As you can see from my (Susie’s) own comment in the article below, we are personally energized by the quality of the Jewish women who have thrown their hats into the ring. What they all have in common is they have dedicated their lives to service and now have chosen to put themselves on the front line to help during this very politically charged time. It’s more important than ever that we elect Democrats to the House and Senate this fall. Get to know these women and we bet you’ll be as excited as we are about many of them. At a later point, we’ll focus on the Jewish men!

It’s a long read, but we found it an interesting one.

Democratically yours,

Dede Feinberg    Susie Stern
Founding Board Members
Jewish Democratic Council of America


It’s the Year of the (Jewish Democratic) Woman

And their first primaries are tomorrow/Tuesday 

By Jillian Nystedt

If 1992 was the electoral Year of the Woman, with the election of four additional women, tripling their number in the U.S. Senate to six, then 2018 is set not only to be the Year of the Woman — Magnified but also the Year of the Jewish Democratic Woman. Nearly a dozen Jewish women is running for the House of Representatives, with primaries starting as soon as tomorrow (Tuesday, March 6), and five more running for re-election to the House and one House member for the Senate.

That’s not counting Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who with fellow Jewish Californian Barbara Boxer was in that class of ’92, running for re-election, nor the many Jewish women in bids for state and local elections. (Nor does it count the lone Republican woman.)

With expectations that the House will turn from Republican to Democratic in January and with the huge number of female candidates motivated to run this cycle by the election of Donald Trump and The Women’s March the day after his inauguration, the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University lists as of early March more than 400 women running for the House and some 50 more for the Senate. Spurned on further by the #MeToo movement and by a sense of “it’s my turn,” both the numbers of women and of Jews could soon top all previous records.

And, why not Jewish women, say observers. “Jewish women have a long history of political engagement,” says Pamela S. Nadell, professor and Patrick Clendenen Chair in Women’s and Gender History, American University, pointing to “the garment workers who went out on strike in 1909 and the ladies of Hadassah who helped to build the infrastructure of the future Jewish state.”

Jewish women, often through the National Council of Jewish Women and Hadassah, also were heavily involved in the suffrage movement. In 1918, Hadassah sent a telegram to President Woodrow Wilson, urging suffrage for women and noting that women had the vote in Palestinian Jewish villages.

When Nadell thinks of Jewish women in politics, she thinks of Florence Prag Kahn, who became the first Jewish woman to serve in Congress, elected after her husband died in 1924 — less than five short years after women won the right to vote through the 19th Amendment. Nadell also remembers Bella Abzug, the congressional representative from New York who was known for her outspokenness.

In her 1984 book, Gender Gap, Abzug (with co-author Mim Kelber) wrote that “‘women now stand on the threshold of achieving more political power than they have ever had before,’” Nadell says. “Nearly 35 years later, perhaps her words may finally come true. Among the many reasons for why now: Hillary Clinton’s crashing of the glass ceiling to run for president and the #MeToo movement that pulled back the curtain on an historic problem that will never again close.”

Ann Lewis, the former director of communications for President Bill Clinton and now head of the JAC Education Fund, says that Jewish women have long been involved in both politics and communal work. Look at any Jewish federation meeting, she says, and you’ll find women who not only know how to make their own case but also know how to make decisions about the health and welfare of the community.

“If you combine the commitment to tikkun olam,” with its emphasis on social justice and “doing what’s right,” with the experience of Jewish communal leadership, “you have a strong recipe for building candidates,” Lewis says.

She points to Jacky Rosen, the congressional member from Nevada now running for the Senate. Rosen’s bio lists her as a former synagogue president. “Anyone who was president of a synagogue knows how to deal with competing forces, get things done and reach consensus,” says Lewis.

She points also to Kathy Manning, who’s running for Congress in North Carolina and was the first woman to chair Jewish Federations of North America, the umbrella organization for the entire federation movement. Because of this, she has both a built-in network and fundraising experience, Lewis says.

Susie Stern, a Jewish Democratic Council of America board member who chaired President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, says she “can’t think of any time in history when it has been more important to have these remarkable Jewish women step forward and serve our country in Congress.”

They will, she says, “be the force we need to get this country back on track.”

Note: Future stories will focus on the four non-incumbent Jewish Democratic men running for the House; the 13 Jewish Democratic incumbent congressmen running for re-election; the one, Jared Polis, running for governor of Colorado; and Sander (Sandy) Levin retiring after 18 terms. Also, Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who caucuses with the Democrats, and two Jewish House Republicans are all up for re-election this year as well.


Snapshots of Jewish women running for office



June 5 Primary

Senator Dianne Feinstein, California, running for her fifth term in the Senate, June 5 primary

With a 25-year tenure, Feinstein, who has been called a “lioness of the Senate,” is the longest-serving woman now in the Senate. Although she has been elected with comfortable margins since her first bid in 1992 and is ahead in the polls for 2018, Feinstein failed to get this year’s California Democratic Party endorsement and is facing a strong primary challenger.

She was the first woman to chair the Select Committee on Intelligence in 2009, and in 2017, she became the first woman to be the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. And, early in her political career, Feinstein was the first female mayor of San Francisco and the first female chair of the city’s Board of Supervisors.

Among her many Senate accomplishments, Feinstein led the six-year review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, leading to the passing of legislation banning the use of torture. Currently, Feinstein oversees judicial nominations and major investigations including Russia’s tampering in the 2016 election. She also has a strong record on gun control, dating back to her days on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Feinstein, 84, does not consider herself an observant Jew, but she says, “I am religious in my thinking.”




August 7 Primary

Congresswoman Jacky Rosen, Nevada’s 3rd District, running for Senate

Jacky Rosen, running for Senate after one term in the House — representing a Nevada district that had not elected a Democrat since 2008 — has said her faith guided her to public service. “My faith tradition teaches me that we’re supposed to leave the world a better place than when we found it,” she told the Nevada Independent when she announced she would be running for Senate.

Before Rosen ran for Congress, her only elective experience had been on her synagogue board. She had served as president of Congregation Ner Tamid, Nevada’s largest synagogue, where she cut energy bills by 70 percent to allow more money to go toward such efforts as Family Promise, which assists the homeless.

Having worked as a computer programmer, Rosen is accustomed to male-dominated milieus and believes strongly in forging relationships. She told the Forward she’s proud of being among the originators of the House Problem Solving Caucus, with its 50 members split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

“Our whole mission statement is to find those ways to work across the aisle and to bring the conversation back to the table. We make the joke now that you have to come like Noah’s Ark — you have to come two by two, you have to have a Republican and a Democrat,” she says. “I think we can find some consensus there and show people that we can begin to talk again.





(in chronological order)


March 6 Primary

Laura Moser, Texas District 7 [Update: Placed second in primary and heads to runoff May 22]

The daughter of a refugee from Nazi Germany, Laura Moser, like so many others, was stunned and sickened when Donald Trump won the presidency. “Jewish persecution was an ever-looming reality, but always an abstract one. Was that about to change?” she worried.

“As President Trump quickly moved to limit immigration, civil rights, and environmental protections, I felt fear for my young children, and guilt, too — as if I’d somehow betrayed the unspoken contract all parents make to give our children a better life than ourselves,” Moser wrote in Vogue after declaring her intention to run for Congress.

Following the 2016 election, Moser, 40, founded the Daily Action, a text-messaging service that has allowed over 300,000 people to participate directly in the political process. Subscribers receive a text every morning detailing a simple action they can take to influence the political process, whether it be sharing a video or contacting their member of Congress. She has divested from Daily Action to focus on her campaign.

Moser has previously worked as a national journalist, editor and author, writing about culture, current events and history in such outlets as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Forward. Moser has also co-written young-adult novels and nonfiction books, several of which have become New York Times bestsellers.


Dori Fenenbock, Texas District 16  [Update: Lost primary]

Dori Fenenbock brings to her congressional campaign her experience as an El Paso Independent School District trustee — she resigned shortly before announcing her candidacy — and as past president of both the Jewish Federation of El Paso and the El Paso Jewish Academy, a community day school.

In 2016, El Paso Inc. publication named her and the school district’s superintendent El Pasoans of the Year for their successful efforts in getting voters to approve a school bond, the largest in the city’s history.

An activist with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, she believes that the Democratic Party has strayed too far to the left on Israel. “We’ve lost our way in the Democratic Party when it comes to Israel,” Fenenbock told JTA. “It’s easy to legislate from here. I see my job as helping our party understand the complexity of these issues.”

Fenenbock worked as a bailiff while studying at the University of Tulsa School of Law, and was an intern for the 10th Circuit United States Court of Appeals and the Oklahoma Court of Appeals. After graduating, Fenenbock and her mother owned and operated a small retail-packing business, where she worked for 20 years.                                                                                                                                                         Website:




May 8 Primary


Kathy Manning, North Carolina 13

Manning says she was raised with the understanding that she has an obligation to give back to her community. Her great-grandparents came to America to escape religious persecution, and from them she learned the importance of perseverance and community service. This purpose drives Manning, 60, to run for Congress.

She brings to her run significant leadership experience. Long active in the Jewish community, Manning was the first woman to chair the Jewish Federations of North America, a position she held from 2009 to 2012. She was also a founding board member of Prizmah, a network of Jewish day schools of all denominations, where she is the currently the board chair.

Manning also focused on immigrations issues as a partner at a major law firm in Washington, D.C., leaving after 16 years to start her own practice. She now sits on the board of multiple Jewish organizations, and twice served as the board of trustees of the B’nai Shalom Synagogue Day School in Greensboro.

“My faith and my life experience as a business person, community leader, and mom teach me that our communities thrive when we bring people together to meet our challenges,” she says.




May 15 Primary

Shira Goodman, Pennsylvania District 4

Shira Goodman waded into the congressional race in Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County after the Parkland shooting last month, inspired by her sense of purpose and need to do something. Goodman, 47, is a fierce advocate for gun safety and other progressive priorities, having headed up Cease Fire PA, a state organization lobbying for limits on firearms.

Goodman grew up in the Philadelphia suburb of Abington, and distinguished herself academically, graduating from the University of Michigan and Yale Law School. A longtime attorney and mother of two sons, Goodman said that she has been passionate about gun control for decades. “I remember vividly where I was for Columbine, long before I started in this (gun-control) movement. It’s been almost 20 years, and our kids are still being shot in schools,” she said. She’s also clear that she cares about a wide range of other progressive issues, including abortion rights and criminal justice reform.

Goodman also proudly trumpets her connections in the Jewish community, highlighting on her campaign website the work she has done with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

While Goodman has long been politically active, this is her first run for office, well, “besides sixth-grade class president.”



June 5 Primary

Sara Jacobs, California District 49

Sarah Jacobs never thought she would run for political office, but like so many, she said the current political climate spurred her to take on entrenched incumbent Republican Congressman Darrell Issa. “This moment is too important to sit on the sidelines — we need new leaders to step up and serve,” she said in an email announcing her candidacy for the House.

Jacobs grew up in the district (in the Del Mar section of San Diego), and then earned degrees at Columbia University. Going on from there, she worked at the United Nations and served as a foreign policy adviser on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. She also worked in the State Department during the Obama administration.

Jacobs, the granddaughter of Irwin Jacobs, the founder of the powerhouse tech company Qualcomm, stresses the importance of women’s representation on her campaign website. “Women need an advocate in Washington. We’ve seen what it’s like when a room full of men try to legislate on women’s health. We need women at the table to make sure we’re making investments in childcare, education, and women’s health.”



June 12 Primary


Elaine Luria, Virginia District 2

A U.S. Navy veteran, Elaine Luria says her personal philosophy is, “Be good. Do good work.” Running for Congress, she wants to bring that attitude back to Congress. And, her district happens to be home to Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval complex in the world.

At 17, Luria, now 42, joined the U.S. Navy. She served for 20 years as a surface warfare officer and nuclear engineer. Luria was deployed six times, traveling to Japan, the Middle East and the Western Pacific. During her service, she frequently coordinated Passover seders and was a lay leader for other Jewish service members. During the Iraq war, Luria organized a seder aboard the USS Enterprise as jets were launching and landing just inches above her head. She told JTA that she and the celebrants, both Jews and non-Jews, were able to establish a sense of family.

Today, she is an active member of the Norfolk Jewish community.

When Luria retired from the military in June, she decided to commit herself to the local economy by opening a small business. She opened Mermaid Factory, where groups can decorate their own mermaids and create souvenirs of Hampton Roads’ iconic mermaid and dolphin symbols. She says that her store has donated $50,000 to charity and brought over $250,000 tax dollars into the economy.




Alison Friedman, Virginia 10

In January 2017, Friedman’s daughter, Olivia, came home from school with a note she had written to the president about kindness. When Friedman tried to take a picture of the letter, her daughter asked her not to, saying, “What if he finds out that I wrote it and brings guns to our house?”

That interaction was part of what inspired Friedman, who has long been an activist, to run Congress.

After college, Friedman joined People for the American Way, working to advance voting rights, civil rights and civil liberties. She also co-founded a nonprofit to fight human trafficking in supply chains. Friedman has worked locally and nationally in the national security industry, where she found herself crafting an executive order for President Barack Obama that increased protections against human trafficking. “I helped author a law to fight slavery in supply chains that served as an international model,” she says on her campaign website.

Ultimately, Friedman, 38, wants to make lives better. She was inspired to run after explaining to her daughter that in their family, after they see something unfair, they do something to change it. “I’ve spent my life working to increase opportunities for those often left out, ignored, or exploited … That’s what I want to do in Congress.”




August 7 Primary


Kim Schrier, Washington District 8

Voted Parent Map Magazine’s Best Pediatrician by parents in greater Seattle in 2013, Schrier, 50, left her successful pediatrics practice of 16 years to run for Congress. Like so many others running for office this year, Schrier was spurred by the 2016 election. “I love my family and being a pediatrician, but all that changed after the 2016 election — it rocked my world,” she said at a candidates forum.

Schrier, who has Type 1 diabetes, is running on a platform emphasizing affordable healthcare. “I believe that healthcare is a right, not a privilege,” she says on her website. “I bring knowledge and first-hand experience in what is wrong with our health care system and will work towards the most effective solutions for our district and our nation.”

Fluent in Spanish, she prides herself as a product of public education. She holds degrees in astrophysics and medicine.

Asked at the candidates’ forum about addressing hate crimes and inequality, she said, “We need to establish a level playing field. I know about discrimination because I’m Jewish.”




Elissa Slotkin, Michigan District 8

Elissa Slotkin brings to her congressional bid a background in national intelligence and security — and farming. She grew up on a beef cattle farm in Michigan — and again lives on the family farm.

Her journey to her candidacy in a sense began the day after she arrived at Columbia University, where she was attending the graduate School of International and Public Affairs. Her second day was 9/11. “When the dust settled, I really knew then that my interest in public service would be more focused on national service,” she told JTA.

By the next year, Slotkin, now 41, was working as a Middle East analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency serving three tours in Iraq over the course of five years. She since has held defense and intelligence roles at the State Department, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Pentagon. She also was a member of the national security staff at the White House under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Slotkin says she was able to succeed as a national security leader due to the common-sense values she learned growing up in Michigan.




Meanwhile, the August 13 Primary in Pennsylvania 6 will see Chrissy Houlahan in a contested primary.  Houlahan, an Air Force veteran, is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor who came to the U.S. at age 5 with his mother and his grandmother, the only members of their family to survive, inspirations, she says, for her campaign. She does not identify as Jewish.


Other non-incumbent Jewish Democrats running for federal office in 2018 include Daniel Helmer – Virginia 10 (, Mike Levin – California 49 (, David Shapiro – Florida 16 ( Levi Sanders – New Hampshire 1, and Aaron Scheinberg – West Virginia 2 ( ).