Why Rabbi Julie Schonfeld Saw ‘Lot of Familiar Faces’ at Historic DNC Benediction by the Forward

Why Rabbi Julie Schonfeld Saw ‘Lot of Familiar Faces’ at Historic DNC Benediction

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld watched Bernie Sanders speak to a restive Philadelphia crowd on Monday night on the monitors backstage at the Wells Fargo Center.

The executive vice president since 2009 of the Rabbinical Assembly, which represents Conservative rabbis, Schonfeld was slated to follow Sanders with a closing benediction to end the first night of the Democratic National Convention.

Despite Sanders supporters’ persistent disruptions of speakers throughout the day, Schonfeld said that, when it came time for her to speak, she wasn’t worried about appearing before the boisterous audience.

“The feeling in the hall was that it really was moving towards a more unified spirit,” Schonfeld said, recalling the moment while driving home down I-95 the next morning. “I thought that Senator Sanders spoke very, very well. And really did a good job of trying to bring the delegates together.”

The first woman ever to serve as chief executive of an American rabbinical association, Schonfeld spoke at the end of an evening that was heavy on Jewish speakers, from Senator Al Franken to comedian Sarah Silverman, to aging pop star Paul Simon, to Sanders himself. Schonfeld’s benediction, delivered in English, drew on Jewish liturgy.

“God is the great, the mighty and the awesome, for God defends the cause of the widow and the orphan and loves the stranger residing among you,” Schonfeld intoned. “This is God’s greatness, and this is the greatness the American people must strive to imitate.”

Schonfeld delivered the benediction in her personal capacity, and not as a representative any organization.

Monday’s events proceeded shakily in their early hours, as Sanders’ supporters booed speaker after speaker. But Schonfeld said that, by the time her turn came to speak, the crowd seemed mostly mollified.

“The First Lady’s speech was fantastic,” Schonfeld said, referring to an address delivered shortly before Sanders spoke by Michelle Obama. “I get shivers even to say it now.”

Schonfeld said that, as she spoke, she recognized friends from the New York delegation, who had seats close to the front of the floor. “Funnily enough, in that great big room there were a lot of familiar faces,” she said. “I was just so honored really to be able to take part in this moment.”

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@forward.com or follow him on Twitter, @joshnathankazis


Josh Nathan-Kazis

Josh Nathan-Kazis

Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.

Why Rabbi Julie Schonfeld Saw ‘Lot of Familiar Faces’ at Historic DNC Benediction

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Why Rabbi Julie Schonfeld Saw ‘Lot of Familiar Faces’ at Historic DNC Benediction

Thank you!

This article has been sent!