Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) urged women to ‘get in the game’ of politics and run for office during an appearance at Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls on Dec. 8.
Wasserman Schultz was greeted by more than 200 people for her talk on “Being a Jewish Woman on the American Political Stage.” Her one-hour presentation included readings from her new book, For the Next Generation, A Wake-Up Call to Solving Our Nation’s Problems.
“This book is my way of sounding an alarm bell,” she said. “In the times we are living in, I thought that through this book I could reach real people who are frustrated with the political process in Washington because they understand that we are frozen and polarized and if we don’t deal with the big issues, the next generation will be in trouble.
“We must do something that will dramatically move the ball,” she said.
The event was organized with the help of the southern Jersey chapter of Organizing for Action, a successor to President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, and MRT’s Rabbi Bob Ourach. The synagogue’s Rabbi Emeritus Sally J. Priesand — the first woman to be ordained as a Reform rabbi in the United States — also attended.
Wasserman Schultz, whose 23rd district includes Broward and Miami-Dade counties, began her political career at age 22 while still in graduate school. She spoke about her motivation as a mother of three with a high-profile job as a member of Congress and chair of the Democratic National Committee.
“I have the next generation in the back seat of my car, and I know that if I don’t step up to the plate and get involved, who will?” she said.
Wasserman Schultz said she is working harder than ever to find common ground in Congress between Republicans and Democrats as she laments the current state of dysfunction in Washington.
She also recounted her battle with breast cancer, during which she underwent seven surgeries while working as the cochair of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
“When the ball is passed to me, I run with it,” she said. She told the audience that she is celebrating her seventh anniversary as a cancer survivor.
In addition to taking questions on the Affordable Care Act, drones, Israel, and the Tea Party, she offered advice for young people who would like a career in politics.
Sara Hayet, president of the Senior Youth Group at MRT, asked what specific advice the legislator would have for a young woman intersted in a career in politics.
“Take advantage of every internship, go down to the local government offices and the offices of elected officials, and get involved in a political campaign. Grab every opportunity that comes your way,” Wasserman Schultz said.
Leslie Posnock Schwartz, an attorney who lives in Ocean Township, said, “I was highly impressed by the congresswoman’s work ethic and strength of character in the face of adversity — both life-threatening and political. I purchased her book, which I mailed to my daughter, a college freshman, today.
“Ms. Wasserman Schultz is an outstanding role model for young women, who take the concept of tikun olam seriously.”
Ourach noted, “Over the decades of the Reform movement in Judaism, we have observed more than 50 percent of the rabbinate now being comprised of women. With the growing number of women in all professions and women’s issues that really are family issues that impact everyone, it is even more important in the political realm.
“Women have the ability to find more middle ground and a focus that brings different perspectives.”
Following the event in Monmouth County, Wasserman Schultz traveled to Cherry Hill for an appearance at the Katz JCC.