Jewish women and the Democratic National Committee
Yesterday, President Obama chose Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz as the new chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), making her the second Jewish woman to hold this position after Debra DeLee in 1994.. (Click here to learn more about Rep. Wasserman Schultz and this historic appointment!) After doing a little research at jwa.org, however, I realized that even though Wasserman Schultz may be the only the second Jewish woman to chair the DNC, she is actually joining a long tradition of Jewish women who have been active in the organization.
Here are some of the women who have come before:
When the Democratic National Committee convened on June 26, 1928, Belle Moskowitz was the only woman on the executive committee.
In 1968, Geri M. Joseph was elected vice-chair of the DNC and continued in that role for four years.
Joanne Alter served two terms on the DNC in the 1970s.
Political power broker Anne Wexler developed a voter registration program at the DNC for the 1976 Presidential campaign that actually kept track of its numbers, a revolution for the time.
Through the 1980s, Jane Harman held significant positions with the DNC acting as counsel for the 1984 platform committee and chairing the DNC’s National Lawyer’s Council (1986–1992) while she practiced law with several Washington firms.
- Civil rights and women’s rights activist Heather Booth worked on electoral campaigns and with the Democratic National Committee.
- Debra DeLee was chairwoman of the DNC from 1994 to 1995 and the second woman to hold that post. She was a superdelegate for the 2008 Democratic National Convention and is now President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now (APN), a national Zionist organization.
- On February 4, 2002, Ann F. Lewis was appointed National Chair of the DNC’s Women's Vote Center. The Women's Vote Center is dedicated to educating and mobilizing women voters to help elect more Democrats to office at all levels of government. Lewis was recruited by Jane Harman to be the first woman political director of the DNC from 1981 to 1984. Anne F. Lewis currently serves on the Board of the Jewish Women’s Archive, and recently chaired the Benefit Event Committee for JWA’s Triangle fire commemoration in New York City.
- Susan Turnbull was vice chair of the DNC from 2005 to 2009. She was an elected member of the DNC from the State of Maryland from 1992-2011. She also served on the DNC Executive Committee from 1997 to 2009. From 1997 until her appointment as DNC Deputy Chair in the fall of 2003, she was the elected Chair of the DNC Women's Caucus. From 2002-2004 she served as National Chair of the Women’s Leadership Forum. Susan Turnbull is currently President of Jewish Women International.
And these are only the Jewish women that we know of. If you have more names to add, please share them in the comments.
**This post has been revised to include Debra DeLee and Susan Turnbull.
How to cite this page
Berkenwald, Leah. "Jewish women and the Democratic National Committee." 6 April 2011. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 24, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/jewish-women-and-the-dnc>.
Thank you so much for letting us know about Debra DeLee and Susan Turnbull. This post, and the previous one on Debbie Wasserman Schultz, have been corrected to include them.
While I think this is a great choice and she will do a wonderful job, DWS is not the first Jewish woman Chair of the DNC. Debra DeLee was Chair in the 1990s and is Jewish. Also, on your list of Jewish women with prominent positions in the DNC hierarchy, you missed Susan Turnbull, who was Vice Chair of the DNC from 2005-2009 and had been Deputy Chair and Chair of the Women's Caucus of the DNC before that.