In Philadelphia, Biden supporters detail roles in election

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After Election Day, Jewish Philadelphians who worked on behalf of Joe Biden’s campaign marched and danced, but most of all they waited. And waited.

On the morning of Nov. 7, their patience was rewarded: Biden became the president-elect and gave a victory speech that night in Wilmington, Del.


Considering that Pennsylvania has more than 430,000 Jewish residents, many people played a role in getting that vote out. Five residents — and one non-resident, whose work this election cycle focused heavily on the state’s Jewish voters — spoke about what they did to elect Biden and Kamala Harris, and the events of the past week.

Dan Siegel

Pennsylvania Jewish outreach director, Biden for President

Since Siegel joined the Biden campaign over the summer, his job has consisted primarily of conversations. It’s a common misconception, he said, that successful campaigns are built on telling people how to vote. What he and his team have found effective is the simple act of talking to people about what they care about.

In the case of Jewish voters that Siegel and the campaign tried to reach in Pennsylvania, what they cared about was Israel, anti-Semitism and Jewish values. Bringing all of those people together via Zoom, Siegel and the campaign, often joined by recognizable local Jewish faces, meant letting people talk to one another about what issues felt most pressing as the election approached.

“It was designed to have people express themselves Jewishly, and as Americans,” Siegel said.

On the morning that his work paid off, Siegel popped champagne bottles with his South Philadelphia neighbors before walking toward City Hall to take it all in. The shared feeling of the crowd, he said, was relief.

Hailie Soifer

executive director, Jewish Democratic Council of America

If you’re a Jewish Democrat in Pennsylvania, it’s likely that Soifer and the Jewish Democratic Council of America called or texted you in the last few months. And even if you somehow escaped that, then you probably saw one of their digital ads. That’s what happens when you make 150,000 calls and texts and spend about $150,000 in a single state, as the JDCA did this year.

Both of those numbers represented a significant chunk of JDCA’s expended resources this election cycle, reflecting how important the organization understood Pennsylvania to be to the Biden campaign’s chances of victory. JDCA partnered with groups like Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania to ensure that Democrats would not lose the state and the election by the same agonizingly slim margin that they did in 2016.

For Soifer, Biden’s victory was a chance to take her children down to the major celebrations in downtown D.C. The joy, the jubilation and flag-waving wasn’t just novel for them, but for their mother, too.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Soifer said.

Michael Solomonov

chef, co-owner, CookNSolo

It actually doesn’t take all that long to whip up 1,000 orders of hummus, if you’re locked in and ready to go. Really, just a few hours. At least, that’s what Solomonov said about Director of Culinary Operations Caitlin McMillan, who filled the big order, made by Siegel on behalf of voters standing in line on Election Day. And for those who weren’t lucky enough to get any hummus, there were 4,000 doughnuts from CookNSolo’s Federal Donuts being distributed as well.

Solomonov explained that while CookNSolo refrained from marshaling resources on behalf of electoral politics in the past, this year felt too important to sit out.

Over the last few months, Solomonov’s been a part of a Zoom cook-along with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and hosted an event alongside Democratic state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta. Just a few weeks ago, Doug Emhoff, husband of Kamala Harris, spoke in support of Biden outside CookNSolo’s most famous Israeli restaurant, Zahav.

Susan Schmidt

psychologist

Schmidt, who is “mostly retired,” still practices psychology in Bryn Mawr. This year, she applied to serve on a Biden campaign subcommittee that explored ideas about how to implement improvements to mental health services in schools. It was a family affair, in a way; her sister, an attorney in Connecticut, served on a subcommittee as well.

A lifelong Democrat, Schmidt would’ve been prepared to knock on doors, if not for the pandemic, but she was hesitant to commit to phone banking.

“I like that he says that he’s not a red or blue president,” Schmidt said. “He’ll be a president for all of the United States. And I don’t think those are idle words.”

Rachel Beck

organizer, teen programs coordinator at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel

Beck knew she had one small window of opportunity to make a quick run to the bathroom on Nov. 7; her job for the day was to clean up after a rally down by Independence Mall.

Emerging from the visitor center, she heard a voice that made her run back to her friends in the street: it was Rabbi Annie Lewis, giving the wrap-up address for the day.

“That’s my rabbi!” Beck yelled.

“That rally in particular was just such a powerful unity of labor and organizers in the faith community, and it just felt like really bringing together a lot. That’s really important to me,” Beck said. “And that was just a great moment.”

Jill Zipin

founder and chair, Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania

“We are a nation torn asunder by the deepest political divisions since the Civil War,” Zipin wrote in the Jewish Exponent a few weeks ago. But even if you hadn’t read those words, you could’ve deduced Zipin’s determination by taking a look at the work of Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania, which fundraised, phone banked and advertised with great intensity over the last few months.

“I’m really, really proud of how we, as an organization, organized the Jewish community in the state of Pennsylvania to push Joe Biden towards victory,” she said.

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