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Democratic group seeks to inspire political activism among Jewish women ahead of midterms

A group of prominent Jewish women, who have been active in Democratic politics in recent years and in communal leadership for decades, are relaunching efforts to expand their network of Jewish political activism ahead of the midterm elections this fall.

The volunteer group, named Jewish Democratic Women for Action, was initially formed last year to support the agenda of the Biden-Harris administration.

It is headed by Susie Stern, who was the founder of Jewish Women for Joe, a group aimed at getting young people energized about voting and helping campaigns on a national and local level.

“You can’t complain if you don’t participate,” said Stern.

Susie Stern, chair of Jewish Democratic Women for Action, with President Joe Biden and Jill Biden

Susie Stern, chair of Jewish Democratic Women for Action, with Joe and Dr. Jill Biden Image by Courtesy

JDWA’s leadership includes veterans like Ann Lewis, who served as White House director of communications under former President Bill Clinton; Karen Adler, the national Jewish coordinator of the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1992; Sarah Bard, the Jewish outreach director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns; Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the former executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly; Laurie Weinstein, CEO emerita of Jewish Women International; Jill Goldenberg, former executive director of the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education; Betsy Sheerr, past national chair of JACPAC; and Valerie Habif, co-founder of the Jewish Democratic Women’s Salon in Atlanta. Shelley Greenspan, a State Department official; and Talia Benamy, an editor at Philomel Books, are two of the young professionals in the group.

Schonfeld, who served on the White House Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships during the Obama administration with Stern, said in a recent interview that the group’s mission is to “educate, engage and empower Jewish women to fulfill their leadership potential and maximizing their capabilities as volunteers.”

As part of the efforts, the group will host on Thursday an interactive workshop that will demonstrate how to communicate political talking points more effectively when engaging with voters as well as sharpening their written and digital skills to broaden support for the Democratic party. Another event scheduled for March will be focused on encouraging women to get involved in local campaigns.

“We want to do this as a Jewish act – making a difference and making the world a better place through our political activism in a meaningful way,” said Stern, describing it as a “sisterhood.” Stern was among the candle-lighters at President Biden’s first White House Hanukkah party in December.

She said that given their past experience in the communal and political field, the group’s leadership could serve as “connectors” for potential candidates seeking office for the first time by putting them in touch with the relevant professionals and offering them advice. “This is the ultimate friends of friends of friends.”

Schonfeld noted that the group is very diverse, by age and by geography, to make sure that as many Jewish women in America play a role and find a place where they can have an impact. “What matters to us is that every Jewish woman feels that she has the support in being able to achieve and realize her efforts on behalf of our Jewish values,” she said.

Stern, who was past chair of the United Jewish Federation of New York and vice-chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, among other roles, described her present activity as “one of the most gratifying things I think I’ve ever done.”

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