Meet the executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America who spent time advocating for Michigan candidates in the 2018 midterms.
By Karleigh Stone
Photos courtesy Halie Soifer
On Dec. 6, 1987, a father took his 9-year-old daughter to Washington, D.C., to march on Freedom Sunday for Soviet Jews.
“I can’t say that at 9 I really understood it, but I have this picture of me marching with my father and I keep it close,” Halie Soifer said.
This march, along with an upbringing in Jewish culture by democratic parents and multiple stints in Israel, contributed to a career in foreign policy for Soifer, the first executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA). Launched in 2017, it defines itself as “the voice for Jewish Democrats and socially liberal, pro-Israel values.”
“I grew up in East Lansing,” Soifer said. “At a young age, my parents wanted to instill in me connections to the Jewish community and Israel … This connection turned into the foundation for my career.”
Her parents are Sandy Kirsch Soifer, retired executive director of the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame, and the late Howard Soifer, who was president of Shaarey Zedek in East Lansing. Soifer spent her summers at Camp Tamarack, studied abroad at Tel Aviv University and completed her first internship at the U.S. Embassy there.
After spending an election year in Tel Aviv, she decided to pursue a career in foreign relations in Washington, D.C. Her goals were to highlight values important to the Jewish community and support U.S. military assistance in Israel.
Promoting equality, human rights, anti-discrimination, protecting the environment, anti-Semitism, common sense gun reform and access to health care are all part of Soifer’s agenda.
Among her first roles was heading Jewish outreach in Florida for the Obama campaign in 2008.
“That opportunity allowed me to use my ties to the Jewish community and my understanding of its values to explain why President Obama’s policies aligned with those values,” Soifer said.
Mobilizing in Michigan
More recently, she helped the cause during the 2018 midterms, by endorsing Haley Stevens and Elissa Slotkin, both Democrats elected to the House of Representatives for Michigan’s 11th and 8th districts, respectively.
Soifer’s vision and leadership are making a difference and inspiring the next generation, according to Stevens.
“Halie Soifer’s incredible vision brought together community leaders and inspired action through smart power, policy and drive,” Stevens said.
“In particular, I remember meeting the young people driven to get involved in politics for the first time because of Halie and the JDCA. I look forward to working with them for years to come, and I’m excited to watch the continued growth and success of the JDCA.”
Soifer and the JDCA went door-to-door for Stevens. She recalled one specific outing in Birmingham, the day after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.
“To see the response from both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities was really remarkable,” she said. “Non-Jewish residents were giving us hugs of sympathy.”
This was a turning point for some voters. “A Holocaust survivor told us he was not going to support Republicans, that Trump fueled the shooting,” Soifer said.
Slotkin grew up in a small Jewish community like Soifer, an important factor in their connection and similar values.
“Halie Soifer has been a fantastic leader. The JDCA does critical advocacy work on values we share as Jewish Democrats, like a commitment to environmental stewardship and social progress. Halie’s passion for JDCA’s work is clear — she’s a leader in the Jewish Democratic community, and it’s been great to work with her,” Slotkin said.
Additionally, the JDCA endorsed Michigan’s Andy Levin in the 9th District, another Jewish politician, and 55 other candidates; 80 percent won.
A National Reach
Also on Soifer’s resume — she was national security adviser to Sen. Kamala Harris of California, foreign policy adviser for Sen. Ted Kaufman and Sen. Chris Coons, both of Delaware, and Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida as well as a speechwriter for an Israeli ambassador.
Soifer transitioned to the JDCA because she believed she could have a bigger impact serving multiple politicians.
As far as the 2020 election goes, Soifer says, “There’s a long field of 2020 contenders. We are not seeking a position of support for any one candidate at this stage, but we are watching them closely.”
She lives with her husband and three children in Maryland. They are members of Adas Israel in Washington, D.C.