Three New Jewish Members of Congress

The 111th session of Congress will add three new Jewish members to the House of Representatives. 

Representative-elect John H. Adler,  D-New Jersey 3rd District 

Recently, United Jewish Communities asked Representative-elect John Adler the following questions: 

United Jewish Communities:  As a newly elected Member of Congress, how do you think your Judaism and Jewish values will come to play when casting votes and setting your legislative agenda for this session of Congress? 

Representative-elect John Adler:   For me, faith is what drives every decision I make during the day, and certainly in my political and governmental life.  I have learned from my faith- family is the core of everything.   Every choice I make in Congress will be made on the basis of how it will affect families across this country as they strive for fair opportunities in education and employment during these troubling economic times.

UJC:  What are your top legislative priorities for the 111th Congress? 

Adler:  I am looking forward to working to change the direction of our country and help restore confidence in government.  My top priority is to focus on policies and legislation to ease the financial burdens on the middle class and restore America’s engine of innovation and prosperity.

Serving New Jersey’s Third Congressional District

John H. Adler will be sworn in as a member of the 111th United States Congress on January 6, 2009. John will proudly represent New Jersey’s third district, which includes portions of Burlington, Camden and Ocean Counties.

John grew up in the Borough of Haddonfield with his mother, Mary Louise and father, John. For more than 15 years, John's father owned and operated a dry cleaning store in town. When John was in junior high school, his father suffered the first of a series of heart attacks leaving John’s father with skyrocketing medical bills. Like many small business owners, John's father lacked the health insurance necessary to pay the high medical costs. The heart attacks left his father unable to work and he consequently lost the dry cleaning business. Sadly, John's father died in 1976. John and his widowed mother learned firsthand the value of government programs designed to help families in times of crisis.

Throughout his childhood, John attended Haddonfield public schools. He participated in the Cubs and Boys Scouts programs and was very active in his community. He was admitted to Harvard College, only able to attend through the assistance of Social Security payments, scholarships, student loans, and jobs in the summer and during the school year. John continued at Harvard for law school, again paying for his education in large part with jobs and student loans.

John has never lost sight of the opportunities he has received in life from his parents and from government assistance and is committed to ensuring that programs like Social Security, Medicare and State Children's Health Insurance Program remain available to families who need government assistance for generations to come.

Before being elected to Congress, John served five terms as a New Jersey State Senator and served as the Chairman of the State Senate Judiciary Committee. He was named one of the state's 10 best legislators by New Jersey Magazine, which called him "hardworking, incisive, and respected by both parties. One of John’s major accomplishments as a State Senator was the Smoke-Free Air Act. The bill prohibits smoking in indoor public places and workplaces. Congressman-elect Adler's efforts will likely save thousands of lives from the dangers of second-hand smoke.

John sponsored vital legislation designed to address key environmental and health related issues, homeland security, ethics reform, reducing auto insurance rates, eliminating municipal and school mandates, and reducing corporate tax on small business. John wrote New Jersey's law requiring pension forfeiture and mandatory prison terms for corrupt officials.

John lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, with his wife, Shelley, and their four sons Jeffrey, Alex, Andrew, and Oliver. 

Representative-elect Jared Polis, D-Colorado 2nd District

Recently, United Jewish Communities asked Representative-elect Polis the following questions:

United Jewish Communities:  As a newly elected Member of Congress, how do you think your Judaism and Jewish values will come to play when casting votes and setting your legislative agenda for this session of Congress?

Representative-elect Jared Polis:  I feel my Jewish values frequently when I am involved in the community in many ways. The principles of tikkun olam, of living to repair the world, are always forefront in thoughts.  My decision to retire from my business activities and to redirect my energies into serving the community stems from my beliefs.

UJC:  What are your top legislative priorities for the 111th Congress?

Polis:  I was elected by the voters of Colorado’s 2nd District to act aggressively on the economic crisis, both by providing direct help to affected people, and by instituting strong protections in the financial system so this kind of meltdown does not happen again. I was also elected to vote on: returning the troops from Iraq in an orderly, strategic fashion; making progress on universal health care coverage; and passing an ambitious plan to address global warming with short timeframes and a commitment to transition to a non-fossil-fuel based economy. Finally, my own personal passion is in public education, and I intend to closely follow and get involved in the re-authorization of “No Child Left Behind” legislation in 2009 ensuring all children have the opportunity to succeed in this great country.

Pronounced: POE-liss
Election: Defeated Scott Starin, R, to succeed Mark Udall, D, who ran for Senate
Residence: Boulder
Born: May 12, 1975; Boulder, Colo.
Religion: Jewish
Family: Partner, Marlon Reis
Education: Princeton U., A.B. 1996 (politics)
Career: Internet entrepreneur and venture capitalist; at-risk charter schools founder
Political highlights: Colo. Board of Education, 2001-07 (chairman, 2004-05)

Polis hopes to tap his background in education policy to help rewrite President Bush’s signature education law.

The affluent businessman has long been interested in education — he served a six-year term on the state board of education — and wants to be involved in the rewrite of the education law known as No Child Left Behind, which expires next year.

Polis supports public financing of elections and a government-run “single payer” system of delivering health insurance. He is also interested in issues important to voters in the Mountain West, such as management of land, water and forests, and how to handle rapid population growth.

At 33, Polis will be one of the youngest members in the House and one of the wealthiest. He earned millions from online businesses during the technology boom in the 1990s. Polis then turned to philanthropy and public service. He spent a few million dollars of his own money to win election in the liberal-leaning district.

Polis was introduced to political activism at a young age. He was born to a poet mother and an artist father who were anti-war activists during the 1960s and took their young son with them to demonstrations against nuclear proliferation.

He is also the first openly gay man elected to Congress as a non-incumbent. “Gays and lesbians are underrepresented in Congress. . . . I think that to form the best laws for our country as a whole, it helps to have representation from a wide, broad sector of American society,” says Polis.

Source: CQ Today Print Edition

Representative-elect Alan Grayson, D-Florida 8th District

Election: Defeated Rep. Ric Keller, R
Residence: Orlando
Born: March 13, 1958; Bronx, N.Y.
Religion: Jewish
Family: Wife, Lolita Grayson; five children
Education: Harvard U., A.B. 1978 (urban studies), M.P.P 1983, J.D. 1983
Career: Lawyer; telecommunications company owner
Political highlights: Sought Democratic nomination for U.S. House, 2006

Grayson’s work investigating government fraud and waste in the Iraq War has led him to call for shifting the country’s focus to domestic needs.

Grayson has defended whistleblowers who accused defense contractors of wrongdoing and has testified to Congress four times on contractor fraud in Iraq. In Congress, he will be another voice calling for an extrication of U.S. troops.

Continued involvement in the conflict could destroy the U.S. economy, Grayson says. His plan for the economy includes shifting money toward domestic needs, such as rebuilding infrastructure, improving education and revamping the health care system.

Grayson supports expanding health care coverage to all Americans and ensuring that all
citizens have the power to choose their own medical providers.

Another priority is working on the trade deficit and the federal budget deficit.

Reining in contractor fraud and military spending in Iraq will help, but the country needs to deal with its debt problems before the economy bleeds to death, Grayson says.

“When we spend money in Iraq, it’s gone forever,” he says.

Another top concern for Grayson is improving elder care and benefits for senior citizens. He recommends eliminating double taxation of Social Security benefits and expanding Medicare coverage for hearing aids, eye care and more prescription drugs.

Source: CQ Weekly