AuthorWexler, Ellen

She was raised in a man's world, never picturing herself in the spaces men occupied. "Girls didn't get bat mitzvahs," Jacky Rosen says. "My young self certainly couldn't have imagined becoming a synagogue president." But decades later--after leaving behind a computer programming career to care for her aging parents and in-laws--she took charge of Congregation Ner Tamid, the largest synagogue in Nevada. It was her first elected office.

For three years, Rosen managed a $2.5 million budget, helped lead fundraising efforts and spearheaded the building's transition to solar energy. Most importantly, she learned how to listen with intent--to really listen. It was a demanding position, and her talents were noticed: In 2015, U.S. Senate minority leader Harry Reid personally reached out to Rosen to encourage her to run for the U.S. House of Representatives in Nevada's 3rd, a swing district represented by a Republican. Although the Las Vegas Review-Journal described her as "a political unknown" with "zero political experience," Rosen won the Democratic primary with 62 percent of the vote. In the general election, with a 1 percent margin, she won her second elected office.

Now, at age 60, Rosen is going for her third: a seat in the U.S. Senate. The stakes are high, as Democrats risk losing the House seat she is vacating. But if she wins, she could help Democrats take back the Senate, where they need to pick up three seats. Rosen's opponent, Dean Heller, is considered vulnerable: He is the only Republican senator up for reelection from a state that voted for Hillary Clinton for president.

Rosen is one of more than 50 women, up from 25 at this point in 2016, who are expected to run for Senate this year, according to Rutgers' Center for American Women and Politics. In the House of Representatives, more than 430 women are likely to toss their hats into the ring, up from 215. These are record-setting numbers, higher than any other year in U.S. history. Since the 2016 election, Emily's List, which supports Democratic women running for office, has received inquiries from 34,000 women--up from around 900 in the previous election cycle.

Most of these women are Democrats, and many have stories like Rosen's. First came the initial disappointment after Clinton's loss to Donald Trump, and then the collective outrage fueled by the Women's March in January 2017. Then came the #MeToo movement, elevating sexual assault prevention from the realm of tired office seminars to something that the powerful are forced to reckon with. Spurred on by these moments, thousands of women were inspired to seek elected office, says American University's Pamela Nadell, who specializes in women's history and American Jewish history. "We're seeing a new cycle, a new wave--and it dates to the election."

Although no official tally exists, many of these candidates are Jewish. Their backgrounds and ages vary, but a significant number, such as Rosen, received their political education in Jewish institutions. Working at the intersection of public service, public policy and public relations, they learned the skills vital for campaigns. "They have the knowledge, the credentials and the motivation to be policymakers," says Ann Lewis, White House communications director under President Bill Clinton and a senior adviser during Hillary...

To continue reading

Request your trial