Why Cynthia Nixon should get the Jewish vote

NY gubernatorial candidate is a progressive honorary Jew and a friend of Israel

Actress Cynthia Nixon arrives at the 71st Tony Awards New York City, U.S., June 11, 2017 (photo credit: REUTERS/EDUARDO MUNOZ)
Actress Cynthia Nixon arrives at the 71st Tony Awards New York City, U.S., June 11, 2017
The first time I heard Cynthia Nixon was running for governor of New York, I was unsure what to think. Previously, I knew her only as an actress from Sex and the City and the mother of one of my classmates. Sure, I heard about her activism, but taking on Andrew Cuomo? Seemed like a long shot.
But I was misguided. When I discussed Nixon’s candidacy with my mother, she was thrilled, as were my friends and most other people with whom I discussed the matter. I went to do more research and found my fellow Jews of New York and I should be thrilled as well.
If you’re a progressive, and we New York Jews largely are, then Nixon is your candidate. Her unflinching and thorough commitment to improving public education is the cornerstone of her candidacy. Her detailed plan would not only reverse the harmful education budget cuts of Cuomo, but also help ensure that New York public schools – increasingly populated by minorities – adequately prepare students for employment and college. Cuomo’s education policy, Cynthia points out, creates “school-to-prison-pipelines,” so neglecting students that they increasingly end up in prison, ultimately supporting the prison system rather than education or the economy. Cynthia, a public school graduate and parent, is the ideal candidate to fix this issue.
Other progressive issues on Nixon’s agenda include fixing the subway system, introducing single-payer healthcare, bolstering immigrant rights and legalizing marijuana. These are all issues that Cuomo has neglected, preferring to institute tax cuts mostly benefiting the wealthiest 1% that contribute the most to his campaigns (Nixon does not accept corporate donations, has raised 98% of her funds from small-dollar contributions, and just became the Democratic candidate for New York governor with the highest number of individual contributions in history). If you want to come home from school or work and not have to sit through lengthy delays, if you want to worry less about the cost of healthcare, if you think immigrants should be treated with more dignity, or if you just want to smoke weed legally, vote Nixon.
Descriptively, Nixon is a historic progressive choice. She is a lesbian woman, married to a woman, and has a transgender child.
Also, she’s an honorary Jew. Although not Jewish by birth, she goes to synagogue – Congregation Beit Simhat Torah, Manhattan’s leading LGBTQ synagogue – and raises her children Jewish. She has been an active leader in her community, giving speeches with references to the weekly Torah portion. She also supports the American Jewish World Service, an organization promoting Jewish philanthropy to international causes, and T’ruah, a rabbinic human rights organization. She opposes BDS. If any of the candidates would understand Jewish issues, it’s Nixon.
Israel is no exception. Her progressive activism and deep involvement in the Jewish community leave me with no doubt that she gets Israel. True, she did sign a petition praising Israeli artists who refrain from performing in West Bank settlements initiated by the anti-Zionist Jewish Voices for Peace. While this did slightly annoy me, I realized that I am comparably frustrated by questions about Israel.
As with virtually all American candidates for public office, the question for Nixon is not whether Israel has the right to exist or defend itself; she is as pro-Israel as any Jew. Rather, she goes beyond simple pro-Israel lip service and asks the tough questions: what are we doing for peace? Do we really want Israel to stay in the West Bank forever? As any Republican candidate would, Cuomo pays lip service to Israel: he marches in the Israel Day Parade and speaks the superficial security-speak of “Israel’s right to exist and defend itself,” even makes symbolic trips to Israel. Israel’s right to exist is a basic assumption for Nixon, whose real concern is one we progressive Jews care deeply about: how do we want a peaceful Israel to look?
As to fears that she can’t beat the incumbent Cuomo, you don’t know how much support she really has until she wins. That’s why this year, we need a high turnout. Just look at the surprise victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the nominations of women and minorities all over the country (Ilhan Omar in Minnesota, Christine Hallquist in Vermont). Establishment figures like Cuomo will not leave unless we decide to replace them with progressives like Nixon. Our only way of doing this is by flocking to the polls.
So, my fellow New York Jews, vote for Nixon on September 13 (and if you’re out of state, get an absentee ballot like I did). She is a paragon of progressivism. She will bring New York out of the stagnation the Cuomo years have inflicted. And she profoundly cares about Israel and the Jewish community. Nixon for NY!
The author has a BA in government from IDC Herzliya and is studying for a master’s degree in public policy at Georgetown University. He is an Upper West Sider and the son of Israeli immigrants.