Sandra Lawson (50), a Democrat from Burlington, NC, grew up in a nonpracticing 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.
We are providing the unfiltered opinions of voters interviewed for this project. Those views are based on their understanding and perception of facts and information from a range of sources. In some cases, that information may be misleading or incorrect.
How concerned are you about rising anti-Semitism in this country?
I’m concerned but not surprised. I have talked to students on campus and colleagues who are weighing whether or not to wear a yarmulke or Jewish symbols like the Star of David, so they don’t appear outwardly Jewish. I wear a kippah every day when I go to work largely so people know I’m a rabbi and so I can easily be spotted by students. I understand the fear, but I’m coming from a place where there’s no way for me to escape being black. And so, for the Jews who often equate being Jewish to being black, that’s another reminder for me and hopefully for them that it’s not the same. I am afraid of anti-Semitism, but I often face more anti-Semitism from the Jewish community than I do from the rest of the world because of not being seen as authentically Jewish.
Do you think anti-Semitism is being adequately addressed by the presidential candidates?
I think that the Democratic Party is focused more on racial minorities and immigration on the southern border because it’s in their face all the time. I think they care about anti-Semitism and what’s happening, but they see it as part of a larger problem.
Some people blame the far-right and Trump’s rhetoric for the rise in anti-Semitism. Others blame the far left, exemplified by the BDS movement and “the squad” in Congress. What do you think?
Anti-Semitism is not a right or a left issue, and neither is racism. Most of the violence against Jews is coming from people who have heard rhetoric on the right. But that doesn’t mean that there’s no anti-Semitism on the left.
In the past, you told us you were undecided about whom to support for president. Have you decided on a candidate?
I still have an open mind and will vote for whoever is the nominee. But I am looking a little more closely at Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. I’ve really been impressed with Klobuchar. And also Biden, not because he’s special, but because he has a proven track record with black people. It’s not perfect, but I know who he is and what he’s about.