Rebecca Sive cut her teeth on politics while training as a community organizer for the American Jewish Committee, her first job out of graduate school.
Although she wasn’t raised with a strong religious background, she said, “I was raised to believe in giving back and in social justice. Those were the hallmarks of my upbringing.”
Her experience led her to weave Jewish issues with her political interests, and to become a cofounder of the Jewish Fund for Justice (now called Bend the Arc) as well as a regional representative for the New Israel Fund.
In her new book, Every Day Is Election Day: A Woman’s Guide to Winning Any Office, from the PTA to the White House (Chicago Review Press), Sive hopes to inspire women to pursue politics and activism. In profiles and interviews, she explores how women activists and office holders built their visibility and use their influence. She will appear at the Barnes & Noble on Route 1 in North Brunswick on Monday, Oct. 28.
Sive, who lives in the Chicago area, wants to see more women succeeding in politics, and more Jewish women succeeding.
“Find out what you really care about,” she advised in a phone interview. “For many women knowing what that issue is and caring deeply about it will lead to having the expertise that will make a difference, enable you to make a plan, mobilize people, and influence the people making decisions.
“In the process, that woman will become a leader, a spokesperson, and she will position herself to run for office and be successful.”
Sive pointed to women like Hannah G. Solomon (who founded and served as first president of the National Council of Jewish Women) and Golda Meir as “great role models from the Jewish community for anyone who wants to run.”
At AJC, she said, she discovered her own ability to interact with the Jewish community around the issues that mattered to her — civil rights and social justice. “It was an instrumental experience for me.”
She went on to become a founding member of the Illinois Human Rights Commission and a leader of NARAL: Pro-Choice America.
Asked to name the most important issue for Jewish women in New Jersey in the upcoming election, she said, “Control of one’s reproductive health, which advances economic security.”
“Jewish women have been historically very pro-choice and understand the importance of this issue,” she said. “As a result, what’s great for New Jersey is that these women are disproportionately engaged in community activism and leadership.”
While NARAL gives New Jersey an A-minus on “choice-related laws,” Sive counsels vigilance. “We don’t know that the situation that is here today will be the same tomorrow. It’s important to examine the candidates and evaluate their stands on the issues that matter, including this one,” she said.