J Street’s 2020 Board Election

Voting for the board election is closed. The winner will be announced shortly.

Learn more at our Zoom candidate forum on December 3. Meet the candidates!

Every three years, one seat on our National Board of Directors is filled by a J Street activist elected by our grassroots members.

Meet the candidates

I’ve spent my life as an organizer and advocate for things I believe in, including decades working on Israel/Palestine and social justice. I am committed to the J Street approach, combining bold ideas and advocating for incremental change.

I understand the challenges of local organizing and operating as an under-resourced chapter. As the local chair, along with dedicated staff, I’ve helped grow the Portland chapter into a vibrant entity, respected by our Congressional delegation.

As a member of the Portland JCRC I worked within the local Jewish community to promote J Street positions. Political campaign work and synagogue committees are my lifeblood.

I understand the challenges of legislative advocacy: I led the effort to pass two statewide nutrition policy bills in Oregon, and advocated for both nutrition policies and Israel policies on Capitol Hill. I live on the west coast, and, having worked in DC for a year as a nutrition policy advocate, I also understand the “inside the beltway” mindset.

As a board member, I will look at the big picture and whole systems, and I’m not afraid to ask hard questions.  As J Street grows, we will need to adapt, change, and be flexible. I show up, do my homework and am a good listener. I am committed to small “d” democracy, feminism and equity.  I believe my experience and my passion for justice, peace and co-existence  in Israel/Palestine will be a valuable asset for the board and I urge you to vote for me!

My cousin Gidon stood erect in his IDF uniform, weapon at his side, bringing martial solemnity to his parents’ small, bustling kitchen in Haifa. It was December 1967, half a year after the Six Day War, and I was a fresh-cheeked 12-year old from Connecticut on a first visit to Israel. What sticks in my memory was Gidon’s puzzlement. How I could possibly dwell in another land? “This is your home,” he explained. With this comment my proud, battle-hardened cousin, no more than five years my elder, upended what I had understood of my place in the world.

Today I am a progressive Zionist. I act on this as proudly as Gidon, but as a citizen of the US, a critical ally in supporting Israel. I see Israel as a place of secure refuge where the path to peace and a healthier democracy lies in a two-state solution. J Street has been my political home since its founding, and I have pursued its goals while president of my synagogue, and while building J Street’s ground game as a member of its Connecticut executive committee. My career includes a Ph.D. on apartheid South Africa; leading staff legislative policy in the Connecticut legislature; and since 1988 in helping build the field of international corporate governance, including from a perch at Harvard Law School. J Street’s mission is filled with risk and opportunity as the Biden era begins. The board will need collective skill to navigate it, and I would be honored to contribute.

Karen Isaacson

J Street is perfectly positioned for this moment to increase our impact – through our chapters, on campuses, and in Washington.  The transition from Trump’s pro-Netanyahu, anti-Palestinian position to President-Elect Biden’s more even-handed approach creates exciting energy. I have supported a two-state solution for decades and believe that Israel can be a peaceful, democratic Jewish state only if there is economic and political freedom for Palestinians.

For four years I’ve been involved in J Street, and bring a newer leader’s viewpoint. I’m hands-on, practical, endlessly optimistic, and am eager to help chapters grow, leveraging the SWOT team. I created Chicago’s programming team, delivered dozens of events (including 20+ programs during the pandemic), co-chaired this year’s annual event and believe I share a new perspective in the chapter’s Executive Committee.

I’d be honored to advance J Street more broadly, across each of the strategic spokes. As a recently-retired corporate HR executive, I have expertise in organization and leadership development, which can help chapters grow their membership and political influence. As current president of Beth Emet Synagogue, I bring a Reform Jewish perspective and skills to drive fundraising, stewardship and membership engagement.

I grew up near Boston and now live in the Chicago suburbs with my husband Mike. I attended Northwestern University, where I received a BA in Middle East history and an MBA. We have two kids: Emily, past co-chair of J Street U Oberlin and now community organizer for the Sunrise Movement, and Gabe, a senior at the University of Rochester.

The past four years have been extremely difficult for those of us who cherish democracy and human rights, as injustice spread and authoritarianism rose at home and abroad. Worse, this dark period saw too many in the American Jewish community betraying democratic ideals in service of a narrow, shortsighted, and ultimately self-defeating definition of what it means to be pro-Israel.

As the spiritual leader of a large and diverse congregation in Richmond, Virginia, I am deeply mindful of these challenges; I navigate them every day. But I also know that times of crisis can reveal extraordinary opportunities. As legacy communal institutions abdicate moral leadership, and as political winds shift in our nation’s capital, J Street can claim its rightful place as the vibrant center of American Jewish life and the beating heart of progressive US politics.

I am running for Board because I want to take an active leadership role in that work: extending our reach into underrepresented demographics and regions; expanding our coalition to include more people and institutions within the Jewish community and across more of the religious, ideological and political spectrum; and meaningfully advancing our pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy agenda in Washington.

I believe that — as a rabbi, author, activist and proud member of Rabbinic & Cantorial Cabinet — I have the right combination of skills, abilities and relationships to help us boldly embrace the opportunities of this new era, advancing inclusion, justice, and peace in the US and in the Middle East.