Interview Via iMessage — Meet Erin Schrode: A Proud Progressive & Pro-Israel Candidate… and oh btw would-be-youngest Member of Congress:
Ed note: Yesterday, we interviewed Schrode, a 25-year-old candidate for California’s Second Congressional District from Marin County. Rather than simply talk by phone, we interviewed Erin by iMessage. As a millennial candidate, we figured Erin would be a good choice to start our Interview via iMessage series.
So how does one decide to run for Congress and who did you turn to for advice?
I’m an activist, an educator, a social entrepreneur. Public service has been my life for over a decade, but never did I think that I’d be a “politician.”
I gave a speech two plus months ago — the throughline of which was “if not here, where?” about the impact of this place, of Northern California, of our CD-2 on my life, my values, my career. I walked off stage and people said, “how do we get you to run for office?!”
I called up my mentors, those I respect most, dear friends, and expected them to smack me down to size, but they all said “RUN!” We need THAT voice in government today.
Dream endorsement… hmmm… Martin Luther King. Can you make that happen?
Hahaha wish we had that ability!
A human being with dreams, an activist on the front lines, one who envisioned a new reality, a leader who earned respect and commanded moral authority.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience living abroad in Israel?
Yes! Yes! Yes!
I never had any connection to the state of Israel. My grandparents raised my mother in a conservative Jewish home, she raised me with those traditions across the country, I was Bat Mitzvahed, but never had any desire to GO to Israel.
A friend convinced me to go on Birthright. I landed at Ben Gurion and had the most profound sense of homecoming, of belonging.
I emailed NYU to see about studying abroad at our campus in TLV as soon as possible — and returned the following semester.
We landed in Tel Aviv two days before January 25th, the day that many use to mark the Egyptian Revolution, six months before Syrian unrest reached a boiling point. It was a charged time in the Middle East.
Erin together with her mother on the roof of Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv
We read somewhere that you pioneered a program on the ground…
I’m an environmentalist — it’s the lens through which I view my life.
I’ve come to see eco eduction as a powerful tool for communication. Issues of climate change, environmental degradation, resource conservation, public health, food security, waste are universal and know no boundaries of geography or religion or race.
I worked with FoEME and wrote the curriculum for the first environmental education center in the Palestinian Authority, bringing together Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian youth around issues of shared natural resources, of biodiversity, of greywater, of water conservation, gardening techniques — as a means of peace building and conflict resolution. Powerful.
I’m a huge believer in finding common ground, in the right to exist of both peoples, in open communication for building peace.
Erin overlooking the Negev outside Sde Boker
You’re backing Sen. Sanders, correct?
I’m proud to be a Democrat right now, where two candidates are talking about the issues that matter and putting forth real platforms with solutions. The movement that Sanders’ campaign is creating does inspire me — and we are tapping into that same energy around the ignored, the excluded, the disenfranchised.
If Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton or the DNC appointed you to the Democratic Platform Committee at the upcoming convention, would you push for changing the language on Israel and the Palestinians?
I cannot accept such anti-Israel vitriol – and I don’t believe that any such change could ever come quietly. There is and will and MUST remain strong support for the State of Israel here in the USA.
I believe in a two-state solution and in the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
Just to clarify — what do you mean by “and I don’t believe that any such change could ever come quietly.”?
I mean that I don’t think changing the language could happen without significant uprising from the Jewish community and leaders here in our country.
There’s a difference between advocating for a two-state solution while recognizing Palestinian rights and blatant anti-Israel rhetoric.
Even though we didn’t hear you say you’re officially backing Sanders, Sen Sanders has been quite critical of Bibi Netanyahu, specifically criticizing his speech in Congress in March 2015 calling Netanyahu “a right-wing politician” who “crashed the United States Congress”
You tweeted a quote from that speech…
It was pre-campaign but what were your thoughts on the Prime Minister’s speech?
If you were in Congress would you have attended?
I wish that Congress hadn’t been playing partisan politics with it — Israel is our only democratic ally in the Middle East.
Absolutely, I would have been there!
…so was it a ‘crashing’ you think?
…and by ‘Congress’ do you mean Republicans or Democrats? or both?
I mean both.
I just went back into my Twitter and searched for my other tweets that day.
Feel free to share
I also said this: “Whatever your politics, no doubt @netanyahu just gave an extremely powerful speech that made Obama’s life a lot more diff.”
He did not crash Congress. He addressed our government, as the PM of our only democratic ally in the Middle East.
Are you concerned about a growing divide among progressives and the state of Israel?
Yes. Supporting Israel and standing for human rights are not mutually exclusive. An anti-Israel bias among progressives does nothing to promote peace, security or conflict resolution.
Do events that occur overseas really matter to us back home or should we make domestic issues more of a priority as candidates Sanders & Trump have suggested?
We are one world – and a more interconnected one than ever before. Events overseas can define our lives, as events at home shape the world. People and elected officials alike must recognize and enact policy in line with that clear fact.
Should the U.S. continue to send foreign aid to the Middle East?
What should the U.S. do in Syria? Nothing? No-fly zone? Boots on the ground?
This IS a long discussion, but one that merits our attention and action. As someone who has spent various weeks on the ground in Lesvos, Greece and Macedonia working with refugees fleeing the very violence of ISIS and Assad, I have heard it expressed time and time again that more must be done. Such action cannot be carried out by the US or foreign forces alone, rather driven by regional partners.
Somewhat related question — the activism that led you to places like Greece, Macedonia (Haiti after the disaster) was that at all influenced by your Jewish upbringing?
Tikkun olam is my life. If not acts of kindness to repair the world, then what?!
Those values of tikes olam, of tzedkah were instilled in my from my earliest of memories.
It harkens back to Pirkei Avot: if not now, when? It is not incumbent upon us to complete the work, but neither can we wait to begin.
Erin at the BBYO Conference in Baltimore earlier this year interviewing two young Syrian refugees
Recently you’ve faced some anti-Semitic attacks online (after we linked to a article about you in the Daily Kickoff), something we’ve unfortunately seen too much of this election cycle, what can your generation do to improve the situation?
To be called a Filthy Jewess appalled me. I have never felt anti-Semitism directed toward me personally prior to that. In the face of ignorance and hated, we must remain vigilant and true to our values. I believe that we must speak about love and focus more upon what unites, rather than that which divides. We must honor our traditions and carry the torch proudly!
As an emerging Jewish leader, is there something specific you wish the Jewish community would do better/improve?
We can and should and must bring our people, especially young people, together – our משפחה! When we celebrate and honor our shared traditions, values, history, language, place (and food!), they thrive and take on new meaning. When we debate, we become stronger, better informed, and uniquely equipped to go forth. I am hugely proud to be Jewish and a part of such a rich, vibrant, resilient, charged community and tribe.
Is political/communal apathy the enemy?
Apathy is the single greatest problem plaguing our world today.
You mentioned food above, what is your favorite Jewish food item?
Charoset: I eat it by the bowl. Kasha varnishkes: I perfected a gluten-free version of my grandmother’s recipe this year. And latkes: my mom’s famous tricolor ones with beets, carrots, and zucchini are sensational with a dollop of homemade pearsauce (welcome to Northern California!).
I am also a Matzah mastermind: pizza, PB & J, avocado toast, you name it.
Erin’s homemade latkes
What are the odds we’re calling you Congresswoman Schrode a year from now?
We’re a people who have long defied odds, לא?
I am laser-focused on our June 7 primary election here in California right now. If we make it through that, then the odds of Congresswoman Schrode increase significantly.
There is nothing more important that I feel I could be doing with my life, time, and energy. I have the opportunity to shed light on the issues that matter most to members of my community and to me personally – many of which we have spoken about here – at a precarious time in our history.