What’s it like to be the wife of the first Modern Orthodox Jewish candidate for Congress in New Jersey?
New Jersey has never had a Modern Orthodox Jewish Republican man run for Congress until this past election, when my husband, Daryl Kipnis, stepped up, in New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District. As a Modern Orthodox Jewish family, we keep a kosher home and try our best to observe all holidays but the struggle of having to be at certain political events often compromises our observance.
There are non-kosher events that are scheduled on Shabbos and if you aren’t there, you jeopardize losing critical campaign support. Often times, this means getting a hotel or planning around Shabbos. During our campaign season, I tried to explain to the campaign team that Friday nights and Saturdays are off limits for us but the pushback was unbelievable. You’ll have no future in politics if you skip this rally or that senator’s fundraiser or if you aren’t available to meet voters. Figuring out if you need a hotel room or if you’re able to walk to an event on Shabbos is part of being Jewish in politics as long as you show up in some way, but that often means extending your schedule and planning around our Jewish lifestyle. Adding events into the schedule every day of the week is part of the process. The sacrifices and struggles are real, making it very difficult for an observant Jewish person to run for office which is why there’s so few, but of course, it’s possible, we did it. One time, I brought my 3.5 year old to an event and someone asked me why he has to have “that thing” on his head, referring to his kippah. Of course, I explained what it was, but it doesn’t change the fact that we encountered plenty of people who weren’t used to having a observant Jewish family in the political arena in this part of New Jersey.
My husband is a huge advocate for Israel, but we had people ask us, “What comes first, America or Israel?” People criticized my husband’s stance for a one-state solution and fighting against Boycott Divestment Sanctions. It’s hard to be Jewish and run for office. The area we live in isn’t loaded with fellow Orthodox Jewish people so right off the bat, we are a minority. My husband wasn’t and isn’t afraid to be that minority. He’s a strong leader who wants to make sure that America always stands with Israel in every way. It became more motivating to push Pro-Israel agendas when we watched my husband’s opponent post Pro-Palestine news articles painting Israel as evil, when the story was completely fabricated to make Israel look bad for “hurting innocent Palestinians” but the Congressional incumbent neglected to tell people they were terrorists in the article she shared.
Standing up and being a leader is part of the biblical repertoire with which Jewish people constitute themselves. Leadership is something some people are born with, the ability to stand up with moral greatness while making changes for the greater good of society. My husband, Daryl Kipnis, is a born leader and brilliant attorney. His speeches are captivating and his ideas are a breathe of fresh air that give people hope for a better future. Daryl is able to relate to real people and the struggles we all face.
The disadvantages of being a Jewish politician are amplified when a candidate must win over voters with little exposure to the faith. “Why do you care about Israel?” People would ask frequently. Daryl always took the time to educate and advocate for the importance of our country to stand with our greatest ally in the Middle East and perhaps the world.
One of my favorite parts of the campaign was having my husband’s big fundraiser at Trump National in Bedminster, New Jersey. They accommodated having all vegetarian food since we are kosher vegetarians, and over 275 people came out to show their support for my husband. Having national pro Israel advocate, Cindy Grosz, in our corner made being a Jewish family in the spotlight a lot easier. Cindy helped connect my husband with other Jewish candidates who supported my husband. Cindy spoke out in support of my husband helping to make sure the Jewish community understood that they were getting the strongest Jewish advocate they’ll probably ever see run in NJ-12. When it comes to Israel and politics, having Cindy in your corner is a must.
For my husband, the best part about being Jewish and running for office in this era is having President Trump, who loves Israel, which made my husband feel like it was the perfect and comfortable time for him to run for office. Knowing that we have Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, empowered and gave comfort to my husband knowing he would be accepted and welcomed as a modern Orthodox Jew. After a long campaign, my husband’s secret wish is go to the White House Chanukah Party.
It was a long road as an Orthodox Jewish Republican family in politics but we learned so much and I think people learned a lot about us too especially Daryl’s pro-Israel and Make America Great Again agenda.