July 21, 2024
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Rep. Mikie Sherrill Meets With Orthodox Community

In a recent virtual conference with Orthodox rabbis and constituents, Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.-11) emphasized her sensitivity to the needs of the Jewish community. She discussed the initiatives she has promoted to back the Unites States’ alliance with Israel; the importance of Holocaust education; and ways to stem the tide of rising anti-Semitism and hate.

The October 22 meeting, conducted over Zoom, was arranged by Rabbi Elie Mischel of the Synagogue of the Suburban Torah Center in Livingston. He told The Jewish Link that he organized the conference because “the Orthodox community is not like other denominations, many of whom are already in her camp. We have Republicans and Democrats, which seem to be evenly split as far as I can tell. I happen to think neither candidate is an extremist, and happen to like both.”

During the session, Rabbi Mischel offered his own perspective on the congresswoman, recalling that shortly after she was elected she called his home, and when his 10-year-old daughter answered the phone, “they schmoozed a few minutes.”

“It left such an impression on my daughter that she still talks about it to this day,” the rabbi said, adding that since then, Sherrill has called him several times to offer help in combating anti-Semitism. “I have learned over the years this is not normal or standard for any politician, and it speaks to the kind of person the congresswoman is. I do not take that for granted.”

In a series of questions submitted by participants and read by Rabbi Mischel during the virtual meeting, Sherill said her experience in the military showed her the strategic importance of Israel as an ally with the U.S. and as a partner in developing defense technology and scientific knowledge, including partnering on medical research for a vaccine to combat COVID-19.

A visit to Israel in November demonstrated “how much is at stake in the region” including threats from Gaza, Sherrill said. As the mother of four children, she was especially moved by an encounter with an Israeli mother who told her about the terror of hearing air-raid sirens as she dropped her child off to school.

The trip was made with a bipartisan group of congresswomen, who met with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials, NGOs, civil society leaders and cultural organizations to gain firsthand understanding of regional challenges and America’s strategic relationship with Israel. Sherrill also traveled to Kibbutz Erez, the partner community of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, to see the connections between New Jersey communities and Israel.

Sherrill noted she and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), both members of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced the U.S.-Israel Indirect Fire Protection Act of 2019 to authorize the Department of the Army to procure two Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system batteries. “Israel helps the U.S. with technology to protect our soldiers,” she said.

In 2019, she was also a co-sponsor of the United States-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act, introduced by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.-22) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), to expand and enhance the U.S.-Israel relationship

Beyond military cooperation and aid, the congresswoman said, “it is also important to think of medical cooperation,” emphasizing that Israel is a worldwide leader in medical technology.

Along with coronavirus research, she has also been an advocate of cooperation between the U.S. and Israel on combating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among veterans. Sherrill said she was concerned that under the current administration, “our allies are pulling away from us, making America look weak.”

Discussing destabilization in the Middle East, she said she doesn’t believe there is currently a long-term strategy to deal with such pressing issues as Iran’s nuclear capability. “If I were to advise Vice President Joe Biden, I would tell him we have to take care of our alliances in the region.”

Sherill noted that while on active duty in the U.S. Navy, she flew missions out of Bahrain throughout the Gulf, and took the recent peace accords between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates as a positive step forward that will be solidified by Israel’s innovation.

To increase awareness of the Holocaust, Sherrill co-sponsored the Never Again Education Act, expanding U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum educational programming by requiring the museum to develop and disseminate accurate, relevant and accessible resources to improve awareness and understanding of the Holocaust. It also authorizes various Holocaust education program activities to engage prospective and current teachers and educational leaders.

Working with Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.-3), Sherrill sponsored legislation to establish a study- abroad program in Normandy, France, within the Department of State, allowing American high school students to learn the lessons of World War II and the Holocaust by visiting educational sites of historic importance.

Sherill said she recently met with Chabad representatives who told her “they wear their faith on the outside.”

“People should be able to express their faith openly,” said Sherrill, who said she was working with community members to educate them about the observant Jewish community.

Reached by The Jewish Link after the meeting, two people looking in on the meeting said they were pleased by what they heard.

Sheri Goldberg of Livingston said she was impressed by how much Sherrill had accomplished in two years. “The fact that she went to our sister community at Kibbutz Erez is great,” she said, “and the depth of her understanding of our peoplehood and her understanding of how much Israel means to this community is impressive.

“She has sponsored bills on Holocaust education, bringing the Iron Dome to the U.S. using Israeli technology, condemning anti-Semitism, cooperation with Israel on coronavirus and PTSD,” Goldberg added, “all of which show her commitment to issues important the Jewish community in her district.”

Goldberg also remarked that the congresswoman’s 22 town halls have demonstrated Sherrill’s responsiveness to the community. “Every time I hear her, I learn something. I feel she is doing a terrific job for her constituents.”

Ron Brandt, a Morris Township resident, described himself as an independent who was a staunch supporter of Rodney Frelinghuysen, a Republican who had held the seat from 1994 until Sherrill’s election, and Frelinghuysen’s father before that. However, he now said he is “thrilled” with Sherrill.

Brandt said he has visited her Washington office with AIPAC delegates and was pleased with her moderate stance and staunch support for Israel. “I think she has grown in stature since being elected,” said Brandt. “She has been very supportive of the Jewish community and votes consistently in support of Israel. I was very happy with everything I heard and I intend to vote for her.”

Other synagogues participating in the meeting were: Chabad of West Orange; Chabad Jewish Center of Mountain Lakes; Chabad at Short Hills; Congregation Etz Chaim, Livingston; Rabbinical College of America, Morristown; Congregation Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob & David, West Orange; Congregation Ohr Torah, West Orange; Chabad of Southeast Morris County, Madison; Chabad Jewish Center of Northwest New Jersey, Washington; Beth Israel Synagogue, West Orange; and Rae Kushner Hebrew Academy, Livingston.

By Debra Rubin

 

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