Jews Well Represented Among Candidates By Rabbi Judy Chessin
As we face national midterm elections, we should consider that, while Jews comprise less than 2% of the American population, we represent 6% of the candidates running for election in the 2018 elections. There are 56 candidates for congress who identify as Jewish, 41 Democrats, and 15 Republicans. And they are as diverse as are the Jewish people.
Some are well-known such as Dianne Feinstein, the incumbent
California Democrat who is the oldest sitting US senator and longest serving woman in the Senate. Feinstein had a Jewish father and Christian mother and was brought up in both faiths. At the age of 20, she chose Judaism as her faith of choice. Also familiar to us is Bernie Sanders an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats. Sanders ran a strong campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, becoming the first Jewish candidate to nearly reach a major party’s nomination. Though Sanders has spoken about losing family members to the Holocaust and about his time in Israel, he is also a leading critic of the Jewish State, strongly disagreeing with Israel’s handling of the Gaza crisis.
There are Jewish Republicans as well. Lee Zeldin is running for a second term to represent New York’s First Congressional District. A paratrooper in Operation Iraqi Freedom and a current reservist, Zeldin now serves as co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus. Lee Zeldin is a member of B’nai Israel, a Reform Temple in which he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah and where his twin daughters attend religious school. Zeldin has crossed the aisle to co-sponsor legislation to support Israel and fight terrorism.
Democratic software designer Jacky Rosen is running for the Nevada Senate seat against incumbent, Dean Heller. She is popular for her focus on the notoriously underfunded public school system in Nevada. Her only political experience prior to her last run for Congress in 2016 was as president of Ner Tamid, a Reform synagogue in Henderson Nevada. Rosen is a centrist pro-Israel candidate. The Nevada race is one of the closest in the country, considered a toss-up.
Then there is the Republican representative from Tennessee’s 8th Congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives: David Kustoff. He had the support of the Jewish Republicans in 2016, largely due to his opponent placing emphasis on his own “Christian conservatism” which was intended to cast Kustoff’s Jewish heritage in a negative light.
Also from Memphis is Kustoff’s Democratic colleague Steve Cohen. Cohen and Kustoff couldn’t be further apart politically. Cohen is a liberal democrat who favors impeachment proceedings against President Trump, while Kustoff enthusiastically supports the president. Steve Cohen’s 9th district of Tennessee is mainly African-American and liberal, while David Kustoff’s 8th district is rural, conservative and white. Both are running for re-election this month and probably are both praying for victory at their common synagogue, Memphis’ Reform Temple Israel!
Given that it wasn’t until 1828 that each of the United States allowed Jewish men to vote and 1920 until Jewish women received suffrage, it is amazing that we have such varied Jewish representation on both sides of the aisle. May we make good use of our democratic rights and make our choices and voices heard in this 2018 midterm election. For we the Jewish people are indeed blessed with the right and the privilege to do so!