Thursday, April 7, 2011

Shining Stars of Davida: Debbie Wasserman Schultz

There are many men and women currently in Congress who are champions of feminism, protecting women’s rights as much as they can. One of those people is Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was currently named the chairperson of the Democratic National Committee.

Wasserman Schultz was born in Queens, New York to a Jewish family, growing up on Long Island. She got her BA and MA, both in political science, from the University of Florida at Gainesville. In 1988, as she was getting her MA, she served as an aide for Peter Deutsch, who was in the Florida State House of Representatives, later serving in Congress as a Floridian Representative for over a decade. When he left the state House seat, he suggested that Wasserman Schultz run in his stead. She won the primary election with 53% of the vote, going on to beat the Republican candidate. She was the youngest woman (26) to serve as a legislator in Florida. She served for eight years (1993-2001), only leaving because of term limits. She then was elected to the Florida State Senate for two terms.

As she served in Florida State Congress, she pushed for many liberal reforms, including several dealing with women’s rights, seniors’ rights, children’s rights, and animal welfare, like a law requiring the same prices for men and women at dry cleaners.

In 2004, she won (and still holds) a US House of Representatives seat from Florida. She was chosen as the Chief Deputy Whip (the assistant to the whip), the fourth woman to do so. As US Representative, she was vehemently opposed to congressional involvement in the Terry Schiavo case. She is also pro-Israel, pro-choice, pro-gun rights, and pro-gay rights.

She is also very involved in the Jewish community, even swearing into office on a Tanakh (Jewish Bible). Wasserman Schultz and Arlen Specter, a senator, were extremely active in getting May declared as Jewish American Heritage Month, modeled after commemorations like Women’s History Month and Black History Month. Her motivation in creating Jewish American Heritage Month was to raise awareness of the Holocaust to the new generation, and to bring a more widespread understanding of Jews, their culture, and traditions in order to end anti-Semitism. She also helped create the National Jewish Democratic Council, was on the board of the American Jewish Congress, and is active in Hadassah.

In 2008, she supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, even helping her campaign. When Obama won the primary, she gave him her backing, as she was extremely anti-Palin. Also in 2008, Wasserman Schultz went through several surgeries related to breast cancer, while still serving as Representative. Ever since, she has been active in increasing awareness for the importance of breast cancer screenings. She is also strongly aware of the need for sisterhood; as a good friend of Gabrielle Giffords, Wasserman Schultz was with Giffords when she opened her eyes for the first time after the shooting.

On April 5, 2011, VP Biden announced that Wasserman Schultz was chosen to be the 52nd Chairperson of the Democratic National Convention. She is the third woman to serve in that position, the first in fifteen years.

The name Debbie is a nickname for Deborah. Deborah was a judge and prophet in ancient Israel, the only recorded woman to serve as such. (Expect a post about her at some point in the near future.) Deborah was strong, a pioneering woman who blended femininity and leadership. Deborah, the Wet Nurse of Rebecca (and the first Shining Star of Davida!) was another biblical Deborah. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has truly continued the legacies of these two strong women. May she continue to rise.

I dub Debbie Wasserman Schultz into the Shining Stars of Davida - strong women and men who make us feminists proud.

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