Of the 476 women who entered races for the U.S. House of Representatives this political season, an extraordinary number—at least 12—are Jewish. Beyond learning about their policy platforms, Lilith wanted to get a sense of what motivated them to run. So Lilith photographer Joan Roth and I (Joan’s a veteran on the campaign trail) decided to shadow a few of the first-time candidates; this year’s large spate of Jewish women on the ballot made the project especially appealing.
Newly visible concerns like #MeToo and gun violence are activating voters, and the complicated questions newbie candidates have to navigate will provide useful lessons for other women contemplating a run for local office now, and possibly a state or federal campaign down the line.
Every candidate has a different identity and story, ranging from a centrist in a “service family” trying to solve problems like job loss and unsafe drinking water in Michigan to a philanthropist and community activist in North Carolina with deep roots in the organized Jewish community across North America. Most are Democrats, and we feature one Republican Jewish woman here who calls herself “unique.”
Support for their races has come not only from the localities they hope to represent, but from a wide range of out-of-district donors too. While “all politics is local,” the attention paid to these women is widespread. Organized national women’s groups, like EMILY’s List, and political allies play a role, but so do the deeply engaged conversations among friends, via email and social media, over drinks and coffees, in workplaces and in parlor meetings. Whatever the outcome of the few primaries remaining as Lilith goes to press, we know that our readers— including those outside the U.S.—are staying vigilant well through the midterm election in November. Win or lose, these Jewish women candidates are opening pathways for 2020 and beyond.
Co-founders Aviva Rosman and Alex Niemczewski have created a website to guide voters on every U.S. race and referendum. Take a look at ballotready.org for candidates, backgrounds, positions and more.