Leah Kiser: Concerned About Women’s Rights

"Some of those very far-right-wing Christians really are imagining women in the United States having roughly the same rights as women in Afghanistan or Iran."
By | Apr 16, 2024
JPVP 2024
Leah Kiser

This interview is part of Moment’s Jewish Political Voices Project. To learn more about the project, click here. To see our other participants, click here. To see all posts from Leah, click here.

Age: 55
Occupation: Bookkeeper

Location: Lexington, KY
Party Registration: Democratic
Jewish Denomination: Conservative but ordained Renewal Kohenet
2020 Vote: Joe Biden
Current 2024 Vote: Joe Biden
Family: Married, 3 children
News Sources: JTA, Moment, CBS, Al Jazeera, NPR

How have the October 7 terror attacks affected your politics?

It has made me extremely disillusioned with the progressive left. I’ve never seen so many people who claim to be for women’s rights and LGBTQ rights and all that suddenly come out in favor of a fundamentalist Palestinian Islamic regime. I mean, it’s just amazing. And also, this idea that Jews are somehow white colonizers drives me batty. I realize that I look like a pasty white girl. My family was from Morocco. 

Has it affected your relationships at all?

I’ve definitely lost a lot of online people that I would’ve thought were allies in a lot of things. In my personal life, I don’t think it has. Most of the community here is conservative and they were pretty pro-Israel anyway. There’s not much in the way of pro-Hamas people here. 

Are you worried about the future of American democracy?

I’m extremely concerned that democracy is in serious trouble in the United States. I think that in red states there will be an effort to make sure that people of color and voters in democratic areas are hampered in their ballot access by Republicans. I still think that the vote will be mostly fair as far as the popular vote goes. I have zero confidence in how the Electoral College will go, because in a lot of states, they actually have no obligation to cast their vote according to the popular vote.

What other issues are people around you concerned about?

Most people I know are more concerned about local politics than national politics. But the Christian right is legislating their religious beliefs and imposing them on people in Kentucky. And the courts don’t seem to have any problem with letting them do that. I mean, some of those very far-right-wing Christians really are imagining women in the United States having roughly the same rights as women in Afghanistan or Iran. And nobody is talking about that. 

So I am very much concerned about the erosion of rights for LGBTQ people. My child was an adult when they began to transition, and that wasn’t a problem for me personally, but I am concerned for all the kids who are now being harassed or unable to get treatment and what that’s doing to their mental health. Our religious beliefs and our ability to practice our religion are being wiped out by these people. 

What other issues are you personally concerned about?

Climate change is an important issue for me, and we are seeing the impacts. I think the challenge of addressing climate change is only going to get more significant—it’s about the type of place that we are leaving our kids, and we need folks who understand that issue and are willing to act to be part of the solution.

Particularly right now there’s a lot of concern about education at the local level and what kind of education system we’re creating in this state. I think we’ve traditionally had a strong education system, but we’ve seen multiple years of disinvestment or lack of investment that’s caused significant concern.

How does your Judaism affect your politics?

I came out of the Reform movement and one thing that resonated with me at a young age was tikkun olam, and the idea of mending the world. There was a point in my career when I had a job at a law firm and I was describing the job as making the world work but not making it better. The idea of making the world better is part of what motivates me to engage in politics and where my political views interact with my Judaism.

Are you worried about the rise of antisemitism?

Yes. I don’t know how you can’t be, and you see it from a lot of different places—which is part of what’s so unnerving. I don’t recall experiencing much of it when I was younger or even seeing it. And so I don’t know if I was just unaware as a kid or lucky enough not to come across it. But it feels like it’s more prevalent and it’s hard to predict where you’re going to see it come from, because it can come from anywhere at this point.

Are you hopeful about America’s political future?

In general, I am one who takes a hopeful approach, even when there are plenty of things to be pessimistic about. I believe if there are people out there working for the good, working to bring people together, working for understanding, working to make this world better, I think folks like that can make a difference.

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