(The Forward) – Silver Spring, Md. — At a town hall meeting in late June in suburban Maryland, Rep. Donna Edwards’s tight rope walk was on full display.
Edwards, 51, is the first black woman to represent Maryland in Congress. She was elected in 2008 in a special election, and shortly after that she was re-elected for her first full term. Her district is in the Washington suburbs, and 15% of the voters in the district are Jewish, according to a local pollster.
A few local Jewish leaders have been critical of Edwards ever since she refused to support a House resolution January 9 that backed Israel during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. Edwards says that she voted “present” because she opposed Hamas’s rocket fire into Israel but did not support Israel’s bombing of civilian targets.
Edwards has attempted the difficult task of openly talking about Israel while remaining close to the large Jewish constituency in her district. She has not always succeeded with the more hawkish members of the pro-Israel community. Edwards’s positions, though, have won her support from the left wing of the organized Jewish community, including, most importantly, the dovish pro-Israel lobby J Street. Through its political fundraising arm, JStreetPAC, the group put out an unusual e-mail appeal June 2 and managed to raise $30,000 for Edwards’s next campaign within days.
Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt of Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, Md., said that, in the meeting, he tried to make clear “that AIPAC represents the broad consensus of the Jewish community, and J Street doesn’t.”
UNVEILED THREAT FROM AIPAC
Weinblatt, who also heads the Conservative movement’s Israel advocacy office, said after the meeting that he was convinced of Edwards’s interest in improving relations with the Jewish community.
“I haven’t given up hope,” he said. He added that if there is no significant change in her attitude, “members of the Jewish community could look for someone who is more supportive.”