They call themselves the “Jewish Caucus” and are among the highest echelons of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, working toward the June 7 primary in New Jersey.
The campaign’s communications director, Derek Roseman, and organizing director, Sarah Horvitz, both view their Jewish upbringings as central to their determination to help Clinton achieve the presidency. But 27-year-old Horvitz and 42-year-old Roseman came to that determination through very different paths.
Horvitz grew up in Silver Spring, Md.; attended its public schools and the University of Maryland; and belonged to “a very liberal Conservative synagogue and a very, very liberal sleepaway camp,” Habonim Dror Camp Moshava in Cherry Hill, Md.
“Camp was the most exciting part of my Jewish upbringing and shaped a lot of who I am. It made me love being Jewish,” she told NJ Jewish News in a joint phone interview with Roseman on May 12.
Horvitz said her camp friends “all became very politically engaged” and brought her “into the fold.” She organized a Democratic club at her high school and began working for political campaigns in California after college.
Currently based in South Orange, she joined the Clinton campaign in July 2015 as an organizer in Iowa until the caucuses there in February, then worked on ballot and delegate issues before becoming organizing director of the former secretary of state’s NJ effort.
“I help design and oversee our field operations,” Horvitz said. “We have a team of field organizers who develop relationships with volunteers.”
Roseman grew up among 3,400 residents of Fredon Township in Sussex County and was “one of two or three Jewish kids” in nearby Kittatinny Regional High School. His father is Jewish; his mother is a non-practicing Catholic. His father attended the Orthodox Congregation Sons of Israel in Franklin, which evolved into the Conservative Jewish Center of Sussex County. In September 2015 it merged with the Reform Temple Shalom in Franklin and is now called B’nai Shalom of Sussex County. His family, he said, “jokingly refer to ourselves as Reformadox.”
“My Jewish identity comes from growing up in an area where I was the outlier,” said Roseman. “I did not have the High Holy Days off for school and I had a menora when everyone else had a Christmas tree. You get a sense of who you are and what your traditions are when you are in that situation.”
Roseman said he does not “look at myself as a Jewish identity voter, but I do recognize the importance in the Jewish tradition of service to the community and that is a reason that I got into politics.”
He graduated from the College of New Jersey in Ewing Township and received a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University, then spent several years working on Capitol Hill for former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-SD) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).
In 2004 he returned to New Jersey to become a spokesperson for the Democratic members of the New Jersey State Legislature. After three years as a freelance political consultant, he joined the Clinton campaign in the first week of May.
Working in a state where their candidate is running far ahead of rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in polling numbers, Horvitz and Roseman share two concerns.
The first is bringing Sanders supporters into the Clinton camp should he lose the nomination.
“At the end of the day, people who support Bernie Sanders and we have shared values,” said Horvitz. “When we look at the Republican side and hear a candidate speaking the way Donald Trump does, I think people are going to come together who don’t want to see that type of future for this country.”
If Trump were elected, Roseman said, he foresees an America “that would lose its place as a beacon of stability on the international stage. I think it is dangerous when a candidate says he wants America to be ‘unpredictable’ on the world stage.
“It is an incredibly perilous place for us to be, especially as it pertains to Israel. It is a nation that has relied on the unequivocal support of the United States government. Unpredictability should be a very frightening thought.”
Asked how the Clinton forces expect to handle what is likely to be a major onslaught of negative campaigning, Roseman said, “Let’s face it. For a quarter-century Hillary Clinton has been the most visible woman on the American landscape and the most scrutinized presidential candidate in at least several generations, if not ever. Even after all of what her foes have thrown at her for 25 years, she is still ahead in national polls; it shows her tremendous resilience. People are willing to look at her and say, ‘This is a woman who represents what I believe.’”
After the June 7 primary, Horvitz said, she plans to continue on the campaign until the end. “I cannot imagine doing anything in 2016 other than working for Secretary Clinton,” she said. But after the general election she expects to return to grassroots organizing in San Francisco, where she now lives. “I am very committed and very passionate about the power of bringing people together for a greater cause. I love this aspect of politics.”
Following the primary, Roseman expects to return to his small public relations practice in Lambertville and will assist friends “who ask for my help in small races for offices across the state.”
But after working on the high-octane level of presidential politics, might Roseman not feel a letdown?
“Not for me,” he said. “Is this an exciting opportunity? It sure is. But I have done this a long time. I am 42 and sometimes I think that the larger races are better suited for younger folks. I will gladly cheer on Sarah and her comrades as they move on to the general election.”