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Forward 50 2015

Wendy Sherman

Israel and the American Jewish establishment fought furiously against the nuclear deal that Wendy Sherman forged with Iran as America’s key negotiator. But Sherman, ironically, credits the Jewish values she learned from her parents for her determination to push through during two years of grueling multilateral talks. They are, she says, the same values that inspired her earlier work as a community organizer and a political activist.

“Social action has been a way of life, a gift from my parents,” she told Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center in Washington last April. “And social action means not being afraid, or if you are, to move ahead anyway, if it’s the right thing to do.”

For Sherman, 66, this meant taking inspiration from her father’s decision to racially integrate his Baltimore area real estate firm and publicly advertise its support for open housing in 1960, when such policies were unheard of.

From that background, the young Sherman moved into social work, striving to help battered women and the urban poor. Later came a stint as director of EMILY’S List, the political action committee that supports pro-choice, female Democratic candidates. But most important for her future work was her time as chief of staff to then-representative Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, an outspoken liberal Democrat whose successful campaign for U.S. Senate she also managed.

Currently teaching this semester at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Sherman won’t say what else lies in her future, though she is close to Clinton

“I am not someone who ever had a five-year plan,” she has said of her impressive career to date.


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