Reflections on a First Convention

Two weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to travel to Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention as a fellow for the National Jewish Democratic Council and Bluelight Strategies. As a 20-year-old college junior, this was my first-ever convention experience: a flurry of introductions, events, credentials, and large coffees amid the sweltering Philadelphia heat. But above all, for this young Jewish Democrat, the week strongly affirmed the connection I feel between my Jewish and Democratic values – and the essential role our community plays in advancing a progressive platform in this election and beyond.

Throughout the week, I participated firsthand as NJDC drove Jewish programming and conversation from a broad range of perspectives among the convention’s delegates. A Monday afternoon event hosted by the NJDC Women’s Leadership Network, alongside the Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs (JAC) and Democratic Jewish Outreach of Pennsylvania (DJOP), highlighted the rich history of Jewish women in the Democratic Party. Emceed by NJDC Executive Committee member Barbara Goldberg Goldman, the event featured speakers including Ann Lewis, a longtime NJDC supporter and a former White House communications director under President Bill Clinton. On Thursday, NJDC hosted a reception honoring current and former Jewish members of Congress. Specifically, attendees recognized Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who resigned that week from her post as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, for her years of contributions to strengthening the Democratic Party and advancing progressive, pro-Israel causes in Congress. And on Monday night, the Jewish Conservative movement leader and Bluelight client Rabbi Julie Schonfeld appeared on the main podium at the Wells Fargo Center to deliver the the closing benediction.

Jewish Democrats were plenty busy in-between, as well: The DNC and Hillary for America hosted two Jewish roundtables for delegates, one of which was introduced by NJDC president Greg Rosenbaum and featured acting executive director Aaron Keyak. And when we weren’t honoring congressional leaders or speaking to convention attendees, we were engaging delegates in conversation about the necessity of turning out Jewish voters for Hillary Clinton in the run-up to November – highlighting Jews for Progress, the newest project of NJDC.

Jews for Progress, our newly launched “Super PAC,” will focus directly on individual Jewish voters in battleground states, crafting and broadcasting the critical message that we know to be true: in order to build a country grounded in Jewish and pro-Israel values, we must elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. Jews for Progress will be chaired by former congressman Ron Klein of Florida, with Michael Adler as treasurer. Veteran fundraisers Fran Katz Watson and Steve Paikowsky will play major roles in the organization’s leadership, and Aaron and Steve Rabinowitz will guide day-to-day operations at Bluelight.

Whether through attending events, facilitating conversations, or distributing our Hebrew “Hillary” buttons, we Jewish Democrats made our presence known in Philadelphia. And we didn’t just reach lay-person delegates either. Viewers tuning in from home may have seen Bill Clinton sporting our button as well on Wednesday night, pinned onto his lapel by former NJDC chairman Marc Stanley in the hall just minutes before the evening’s speeches. Steve Rabinowitz gave one of the buttons to President Clinton, his former boss, at an event earlier that day, and Bill assured him that he’d wear it. He made good on that promise, wearing it all night.

The strength of Jewish support for the Democratic Party was on full display that week, and the convention made it very clear why. The same values that drive our community – equality, opportunity, justice, and compassion – are the values our party is fighting for in 2016 and for years to come.