Meet the Candidates

J Street's board election candidates come from all over the US, and each one would bring an outstanding voice to the group that helps guide our pro-Israel, pro-peace movement. Meet the candidates (in alphabetical order, no favorites!) below, then cast your vote.

Voting closes at midnight E.S.T. on December 26.

Talia Benamy

New York, N.Y.

I joined J Street out of a deep and strong love for Israel, and out of a fear that, without a two-state solution, the Israel that I love will cease to exist. As co-chair of the J Street NYC chapter for the past 4.5 years, I have had the honor of working with J Street's staff and supporters in the country’s largest chapter.

I have been enormously proud of our successes in Congress and in broadening the conversation on Israel, and of the pragmatism and resolution with which we have operated.

And yet, there is more still to be done. There are further inroads to make both in Washington and with national Jewish communal organizations, many of which are headquartered right here in New York. As a life-long New Yorker with deep ties to Jewish life here, I have been J Street’s advocate on the ground in those circles, and I feel that the insights I have gained, as well as the Jewish and Zionistic values that have been instilled in me, give me a strong voice that would be of great value to the board.

Edward Goldstein

Newton Centre, Mass.

I am a true grassroots candidate, pledging to serve only one term so our Board can benefit regularly from fresh thinking. Committed to ensure that all are heard by listening to everyone and transmitting your ideas to leadership. I will visit with Locals, YP groups and J Street U chapters. I advocate bringing members to DC to shadow staff lobbyists and see what J Street does. Tell me your ideas so I can be the “people’s voice”

Why me? Extensive writings on J Street Forum and in News Roundup. Have spent significant time in Israel experiencing many aspects of Israeli life. Professor of Jewish Studies followed by business career as lobbyist, campaign operative and PR person. Active in J StPAC. I offer a perfect blend of Jewish knowledge and political experience, DC and grassroots activity.

My stand? Preserve the 2-state option, push back against settlement expansion and extremism, cultivate Republicans as endorsees, exhibit empathy for Palestinians as well as Israeli Jews. With challenges like these, we are embarking upon J Street’s finest hour. Please vote for me and encourage others to do likewise. Thank you!

Richard Goldwasser

Highland Park, Ill.

I am humbled to have played a role in J Street’s tremendous growth throughout the United States by serving on the national board the last three years and to have been part of a group that has built an impressive grassroots organization in Chicago. In July during the height of the Gaza war, I led a delegation of J Street members on a solidarity mission to Israel, and got a glimpse of the human cost of war and occupation. Many now look at the continuing violence and believe we are at a dead-end. But the path to a democratic and secure Israel is not closed off. The door to Palestinian statehood is not shut.

In the coming months, J Street will have a vital role in shaping American policy to promote a democratic and tolerant Israel. Should I be re-elected, I will continue to use my position to advocate for a policy directed at halting settlement expansion, rolling back the occupation, and taking advantage of the constructive role international institutions can play to advance a two-state solution safeguarding the mutual rights and security of Israelis and Palestinians.

As I stand for re-election, I would be honored to have your support.

Virginia Gordon

La Jolla, Calif.

J Street is uniquely positioned to engage the American Jewish community and leverage that relationship with Congress to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace. I would be honored to serve on J Street's Board.

Since 2012, I have been J Street San Diego's Co-Coordinator (with Martin Bunzl) and helped build a new 1500 member chapter of 40 activists. In one of 2014's closest races, we raised $54,908 locally, $61,380 nationally, for Scott Peters (CA-52), the most raised for any 2014 JStreetPAC House endorsee. We now have an open door to 3 of 5 Congressional representatives.

I have 40 years' experience in grassroots community and labor organizing, fundraising, and electoral politics, including serving on Obama's 2008 campaign. I have held leadership positions on foundation boards and raised over $2 million for health care, education, peace building and advocacy. My Middle East activism began in 1983 when I developed philanthropic campaigns in New York and Boston to support Israeli-Palestinian peace projects.

I hold a master’s in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, and conduct educational research at UCSD. My husband, filmmaker/professor Robert Hooper, and I have one daughter. In 2013 we traveled to Tunisia to learn about the origins of the Arab Spring.

Phyllis Snyder

Merion Station, Penn.

No issue is more important for American Jews now than Israel’s future. Unless we are able to convince the Israeli government of the urgent need to return to Jewish values and democracy and to respect the rights of all people in the Middle East, we risk losing a country that is core to our identity as Jews.

I recognize the enormous complexity of trying to make peace between Arabs and Jews but believe strongly that J Street must continue to promote relentlessly a resolution that is fair to both populations. For me, the choice to work with J Street to educate and influence the Jewish community and our government and to engage more youth in J Street U is clear. My stage of life affords me the luxury to choose to devote time and energy to issues of critical importance, and to apply the experience gained from many years of work as a vice president of a national nonprofit and from leadership roles in my synagogue. Building a J Street presence in Philadelphia has taught me lessons that I would like to use in growing J Street nationally.

Howard Sumka

Silver Spring, Md.

I first engaged with J Street when I briefed its Congressional Delegation in Jerusalem in 2010. As Director of USAID’s Mission to West Bank - Gaza, I explained our programs for advancing Palestinian development and statehood. It was refreshing to talk with members of Congress sympathetic to the Palestinian situation and sensitive to the complicated nuances of the conflict and the occupation. A year later, retired from USAID, I briefed its Leadership Delegation on the bus from Jerusalem to Ramallah. I am now on the Leadership Council and regularly attend and occasionally speak at DC Metro events and the Annual Conference.

I have a depth of professional experience that will enhance Board deliberations and decision making. I had close working relationships with Palestinian political and business leaders. I also worked with Israeli authorities and understand their concerns and imperatives. I later spent a year as CEO of the OneVoice Movement, where we mobilized Palestinian and Israeli civil society in support of two states.

J Street is essential to a political dialogue that fully embraces the views of the American Jewish community. I would like to make a constructive and systematic contribution by serving on the Board.

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