Federation hosts historic candidates’ forum

By Stephanie Goodling
HAKOL Editor

The Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley hosted a historic forum on the evening of Oct. 13. For the first time ever, the race to represent much of the Lehigh Valley in the U.S. House is between two Jewish women. Current Rep. Susan Wild, a Democrat, faced off against Republican Lisa Scheller in a socially-distanced event shown live on YouTube. The two political hopefuls were moderated by David Bernstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, who introduced them to their virtual audience.

Both women are active supporters of Federation and other local Jewish agencies, and both spoke of their involvement in the Lehigh Valley Jewish community. They also both emphasized that they are strong supporters of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Wild pointed out that it was partly because of Israel that she was eager to take a position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“I have and will always use that seat to be a tireless advocate for Israel as well our other allies,” said Wild, who supports a two-state solution and believes that the U.S. must play a role in any negotiations.

When asked to condemn white supremacy, both candidates did so unequivocally.

Addressing rising anti-Semitism, Scheller said, “Hate is hate is hate. I don't care where hate comes from, I condemn it ... I know anti-Semitism l’dor v’dor,” sharing experiences of her family personally dealing with anti-Semitism.

Questioned on what government policies can give some economic security during the COVID-19 pandemic, different approaches were highlighted. Scheller emphasized along with low taxes, infrastructure and reasonable regulations. Wild articulated the need for vigorous and ample COVID-19 testing, funding for vaccinations and making sure people have access to healthcare, including making sure that pre-existing conditions are not penalized. Both, however, agreed that education would lead to greater opportunities for all.

“No question education is at the heart of income inequality,” said Wild, “Which is why I joined the House Education & Labor Committee, where I have worked relentlessly to make sure that public education is better. Zip code should not determine quality of education.”

The topic of policing led to more disparity of views, with Wild contending that the police are called upon for too many instances outside of their expertise and advocated for more mental health support for police departments, such as funding mobile mental health units. Scheller doubled down on the need for safety and security, including at houses of worship. 

When asked about the replacement of recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Scheller admired her “breaking through the glass ceiling,” but said that the President and the Senate have an obligation to fill her seat. Wild, meanwhile, said it was “hypocritical” of the GOP to do so now.

Both candidates were asked if they would be willing to share who they are voting for in the presidential election. Unsurprisingly, Wild said Joe Biden, and Scheller said President Donald J. Trump.

After debating these and other topics from the Black Lives Matter movement to the Iran nuclear deal, it was time for closing remarks. 

“This is not about me or my opponent. I represent each and every one of you, regardless of color of skin or religion. We need effective leadership. I’m proud of what my office has done, but we have so much more to do,” said Wild.

Scheller closed by reiterating her commitment to the Jewish community.

“When you're deciding who you want to be your voice, remember I have had a lifelong commitment to the Jewish community here. My Lion of Judah is just the beginning. And I will not tolerate anti-Semitism anywhere,” she said.