picture of Halie Soifer standing on stage with a sign behind her that says "welcome to the unofficial white house hanukkah after party"
Halie Soifer at the Jewish Democratic Council of America's 2022 Hanukkah party. (Photo/Courtesy JDCA)

Halie Soifer, head of Jewish Democratic Council of America, talks 2024 in Bay Area

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Halie Soifer is CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, which backs Democratic politicians who support Jewish values and causes. The organization’s platform includes support for civil liberties, immigration reform and the security of the State of Israel.

According to JDCA press director Benny Stanislawski, the council spent over $1 million to support candidates and issues during the 2022 midterm elections. The council also organizes voters to write to their representatives on hot-button issues and to phone-bank during elections.

Currently, JDCA is asking Jewish voters to sign up for June’s “week of action,” in which people can meet with members of Congress in person to discuss how to combat antisemitism, preserve abortion rights, strengthen the middle class and more.

Soifer visited the Bay Area this month from Washington, D.C., and spoke with J. on April 24 about the organization’s plans for the next election and goals for California.

J.: Tell me about the organization and its role in Jewish politics.

Halie Sofer: JDCA is a national organization. We are the voice and political home for Jewish voters in support of Democrats who share our values. We support only Democrats — but not all Democrats.

California, as a staunchly Democratic state, will probably go for the Democratic candidate in the next presidential election. What’s JDCA’s role in the state?

Our goal for California for ’24 is to make sure that not only the state continues to support a Democrat in the White House, but also that we elect as many Democrats as possible to Congress. Obviously, Democrats have a very narrow majority in the [U.S.] Senate, just one seat, and a very narrow minority in the House.

You know, whereas perhaps in the past, election cycles ebbed and flowed — in even- and odd-numbered years — there’s no such thing as an off year any longer. So even though we’re 18 months ahead of the election, we’re already doing the work in organizing and mobilizing voters.

These elections will shape the future of our country for the next four years. We know that the Jewish vote makes a difference. President Biden was elected by a popular vote margin of about 7 million. But when it came to the Electoral College, it came down to just over 110,000 [votes]. And in the three states that determined the outcome of the 2020 election — Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia — the Jewish vote made a difference in support of Biden.

Where does JDCA stand on the race to replace Dianne Feinstein as California’s senator, which has already drawn powerhouse Democratic names including Barbara Lee, Adam Schiff and Katie Porter?

It remains unclear what [Feinstein’s] future looks like. And JDCA has not taken a position other than to recognize that her decades of public service, including in the Senate, have

We support only Democrats — but not all Democrats.

been deeply appreciated, and she’s furthered many issues of importance to the Jewish community.

The Jewish vote will continue to be very important in California — you have large Jewish populations around San Francisco and Los Angeles — so there’s no doubt that the Jewish vote will play a role in this next election, including with regard to the Senate race.

We don’t know who will be running, so we haven’t taken a position with regard to that race.

Liberal Jews are increasingly concerned about Israel. How does JDCA factor that into its work?

We are proudly a pro-Israel organization, in that we support U.S. assistance to Israel to advance Israel’s security. We support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we oppose efforts to boycott Israel. We oppose the BDS movement.

We know that a majority of Jewish Americans also identify as pro-Israel or have an emotional attachment to Israel. But we also know, based on that same polling, two things: One is that American Jews understand that one can be both pro-Israel and be critical of the current Israeli government, just as we can be proud American patriots and be critical of our government.

Recently we have expressed deep concern about the policies of this government in Israel, specifically as it relates to the judicial overhaul proposal to diminish the power of the judiciary in Israel.

Something else that we know based on polling is that Jewish voters are making their decisions in elections mostly based on domestic policy issues. They’re voting on the issues where there’s the biggest distinction between the candidates and the party, and that tends to be domestic policy. The future of our democracy was the No. 1 issue for Jewish voters in the 2022 midterms, followed by access to abortion. So while Israel is important, it doesn’t necessarily shape how Jews vote in the election.

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.