Perhaps it’s not surprising that a Jewish congresswoman begins her talk to a Jewish group with personal references that the audience finds quite familiar.
So it was with 2nd District Representative Elaine Luria who spoke to the Temple Israel Sisterhood on November 10. “In Alabama where I grew up, my mother was active in her synagogue Sisterhood and in Hadassah,” said Luria, who is less than a year into her first term in Washington. In fact, Elaine Goodman Luria’s mother and grandmother were also involved in the National Council of Jewish Women (of which her mother was president) and the Birmingham Jewish Federation.
Luria, who held a Passover seder on an aircraft carrier after 9/11, is a member of Ohef Sholom Temple, but her chaplain at the US Naval Academy, from which she graduated in 1997, was Jonathan Panitz, brother of Temple Israel’s Rabbi Michael Panitz.
Her bona fides established, Luria, who served 20 years in the Navy and was the first female American sailor to spend her entire career on combat ships, gave the crowd an update on the extensive work she is doing as a member of the House Armed Services Committee. She is also busy on the Virginia Congressional caucus, which she says is a very productive and collegial group. “We’re the only ones who do it,” Luria said. “But after all, finding common ground is the Virginia way.”
Luria said the 20 Jewish members of the House of Representatives, four of whom are committee chairs, meet monthly, not as an official caucus, but to discuss areas of mutual concern and interest. Looking toward Richmond, Luria gave a special nod to Democrat Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, who is likely to become the first female Speaker of Virginia’s House of Delegates, as well as the first Jewish person to hold that office, when the state legislature convenes in January.
Luria said the potential for passage of a federal Medicare For All plan is “zero” at this point; her preference being a public option that builds on the foundation of the Affordable Care Act. At Temple Israel, she also discussed mental health benefits for veterans, her decision to support the impeachment process after the whistleblower’s complaint regarding President Trump’s conversations with the Ukrainian president, the withdrawal of American forces from Syria, as well as HR 3, that deals with prescription drug costs, and HR 8, which calls for universal background checks for gun purchases.
She also spoke about the challenges posed by the Squad, four other female freshman representatives. In particular, she focused on accusations of dual loyalty by Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib that informed Luria’s decision to speak on the House floor for the first time.
Temple Israel members who coordinated the Sisterhood Paid Up Membership event included Wendy Brodsky, Beverlee Tiger, Sara Jo Rubin, Natalie Steiner, Laure Saunders, Ruth Ellen Moscovitz, Scott Moscovitz, Tina Moses, Sharon Leach, Lois Einhorn, and Andy Rabiner.
Bobbie Fisher and Joel Rubin