Sandra Lawson (NC): ‘I Don’t Know What Could Possibly Surprise Me at This Point’
Rabbi Sandra Lawson (50) a Democrat from Burlington, NC, grew up in a non-practicing Christian family and served in the Army during her college years. After leaving the military, she befriended a rabbi who introduced her to Judaism. She enjoyed going to synagogue and liked the Jewish community, so she decided to convert and ultimately attended rabbinical school. She identifies as queer and lives with her wife.
Which issues do you care about most?
I want to have a serious conversation about gun laws and to stop politicizing this issue. I’m a veteran, I support people’s right to have guns. But there are some guns that are designed with the sole purpose of killing people, instead of for protection and hunting. I also want to get rid of toxic masculinity and teach men how to behave appropriately and make sure they understand what consensual sex means. I understand that many men do, but with all of these allegations coming out against well-known people, a lot of people are just now starting to listen. I would also love for our country to have a serious conversation about reparations for African Americans..
What personal traits matter to you in picking a candidate?
I’m excited that we have this incredible, diverse pool of candidates on the Democratic side. I haven’t settled on any of them, but they all seem pretty good. As a black queer Jewish person, I can see myself in many of the candidates, which has never been the case before. I mean candidates like Pete Buttigieg, a gay married man. And we have Andrew Yang, an Asian, as well as Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. And then look at Elizabeth Warren, a woman who’s fighting very hard and has detailed plans. I find that exciting. Even the white men who are running—Bernie Sanders is Jewish. And I have a lot of feelings in my heart for Joe Biden. He’s been around a long time, and he was the vice president during the Obama administration. That doesn’t mean I’m going to vote for him, but I have these feelings for him.
Is Israel an important issue for you?
I support the State of Israel, but I’m not invested in what’s happening in Israel. I don’t see this as part of my role. I’m much more concerned with what’s happening in the United States.
How does your religion influence your political views?
My Jewish values are wrapped up in the things that I do and what I believe in. I think about my Jewish values when I vote. I am a Jew who lives within a Christian culture, and our Christian culture affects a lot of things that we do—like abortion issues, for example. I don’t believe religions should decide if somebody has an abortion or not.
What do you think about the current political climate?
I’m really concerned about our public dialogue. I’m uncomfortable with language that I hear from our current president and things I hear from some other people running for office. I know that there have been racists and bigots throughout the history of our country, but I find more people seem to be emboldened in their racism and sexism.
Do you expect any surprises in the coming election?
I don’t know what could possibly surprise me at this point, but I just feel like we keep sinking lower and lower and lower. And I’m really saddened about our presence in the larger world. We have a president right now who is pulling troops out of the Middle East, we’re abandoning our allies, and the president supports autocrats and dictators. We are losing the friendships that we’ve had for decades, for centuries.