As a mother I often think about what I want to teach my kids. I think of math, history and the arts, but most of all, I want to teach them the values I learned from my family.
My grandfather was a religious man and would often take me to his synagogue, where women and men sat separately. When I was aboutfour, I was seated in the women’s section, squirming around because I could not see what was happening. My grandfather lifted me across the partition, assuring me that girls had just as much of a right to sit in the better seats. It was my first taste of gender equality, and I liked it.
Like Senator Perry, who carried these values of equality, opportunity, andfairness to the state house until her retirement,I am running for state senate for the East Side to make sure our values of equal opportunity for all Rhode Islanders are heard clearly on Smith Hill.
Many people have asked me why I am running, so I want to share my story directly with you. I hope this letter will help you get to know me, and most importantly, the values I will bring to the State House if elected.
When my grandfather was a teenager, he fled Eastern Europe for the safety of the New World. He left his parents and two beloved siblings behind, andboarded a boat toCanada,determined to find happiness and a life without fear.
I loved visiting my grandparents’ small apartment. Their home was filled withthe aromas of my grandmother’s chicken soup or cinnamon rolls. While my grandparents didn’t have much, they always had love, kind words,a helping hand, and coffee nip candies tucked away in a hallway cabinet.
My grandfather was guided by his faith as he built a busyfactory that cut bristles for hairbrushes. He believed that being a good personmeant a commitment to social justice and offeringeveryone an opportunity to succeed.My grandfather hired people no one else would hire, including people just getting out of prison. He thought everyone deserved a chance.
In Montreal, I was surrounded by my extendedfamily. As a child I would go from house to house eating, getting kisses from aunties, and playing with cousins. But by 1978, Montreal was struggling economically and politically. My parents decided to seek better opportunities, so at the age of 7, we moved to Atlanta, Georgia.
When I arrived in Atlantathe only English word I could read was “exit.” I learned it by reading the highway signs as we drove the thousands of miles from Montreal. While we spoke English at home, my formal education had been in French. I am still grateful tomy secondgrade teacher, Mrs. Griffith, who helped me learn to read English that year.
My father continued his work as a contractor in Atlanta, but my mother, who had been a teacher, decided to try real estate. My parents struggled with the financial uncertainty of being self-employed, but my sisters and I still found ways to have fun. We would dance around the living room listening to recordsand spend hours riding around the neighborhood on our bikes. My childhood was also filled with a strong commitment to community service. I found meaning volunteering in hospitals, in my synagogue, and helping younger children learn to read.
Ateighteen I returned to Montreal toattendMcGill University, graduating with adegree in English literature. Then, I met Jeff Levy shortly after college. I knew I wanted to marry him the moment I met him, and a few weeks later we were engaged. That was seventeenwonderful years ago.
Marrying Jeff brought more than a partner into my life – it gave me a whole new family. Jeff’s aunts, Fran and Nan, became surrogate mothers as my own mother was struck with Alzheimer’s. Fran was a teacher and president of her local teachers’ union in Florida,and Nan served as town clerk and then asmayor of West Hartford, Connecticut. Over the years, I have learned so much fromthese strongwomen, who were such effective public leaders.
Jeff and I moved to Boston and began our life together. Jeff started working at a small law firm and I continued my career in the nonprofit sector, first as a grantwriter for a community health center and then teaching recent immigrants how to navigate the health care system and advocate for changes. I knew I wanted to have an impact on the systems that affect people’s lives, so I applied to a public policy graduate program at Tufts.
After I finished my master’s degree, I was offered a job in Rhode Island. Jeff and I drove around the East Side and fell in love with it. We could easily see that the houses are beautiful, the people are friendly, and there are great restaurants all around. Jeff and I quickly decided to leave Boston and move to Providence. We’ve lived here since 1998, making our house a home.
My first job in Rhode Island was with Volunteers in Health Care, drawing on my commitment to quality, affordable health care for all. At Volunteers in Health Care I helped free clinics and community health centers across the country understand state malpractice laws, recruit clinical volunteers, find ways to get low-cost medication, and improve services for immigrant patients.
In 2006, I began my own business as a consultant to nonprofit organizations. I’ve been fortunate to work with greatcommunity organizations, including Rhode Island Kids Count and New Roots Providence. This year Ijoined the staffof Women’s Fund of Rhode Island,where I oversee policy research, grant-making, and the Women’s Policy Institute, a policy leadership program.
I have also volunteered my time to issues that are important to me. I have worked with Healthy Kids Rhode Island, Adoption Rhode Island,and Jewish Family Service. I have also served on the Temple Emanu-El religious school committee, the rabbi search committee, and am now a proud member of their board of directors.
I first began thinking about becoming a legislator ten years ago when I helped lobby for a bill to guarantee Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) to parents who adopt a child. Until then, only pregnant women got financial supportthrough TDI to take parental leave to bond with their children. I saw no reason that adoptive parents who paid into the TDI system shouldn’t have that same support. After three years of fighting for equality, we found a compromise: a tax credit for adoptive families. Our work pushed many of Rhode Island’s largestcompanies to examinetheir parental leave benefits for families who adopt. Since then, I have been at the State House many times to talk with legislators about issues that affect the most vulnerable groups in Rhode Island.
My greatest accomplishments, though, are my two sons, Zack, 11, and Jonah, 8. Every day my kids amaze me with their humor, creativity, and generosity. They are also both great athletes, so I spend a lot of my spare time at Fox Point/East Side Little League games.
When I look at my kids, I see them learning to be kind and caring to one another. I see them discovering that they are responsible for one another. And I see the reason I am running for State Senate – to make sure that all of our children have the opportunities and tools to succeed.
As your state senator, you will always be able tocount on me to fight for and protect civil rights, including the right to marry whomever you choose and the right to make your own reproductive choices.
My commitment to the economic sustainability of all families means I'll work every day to ensure access to healthy food, a safe home, quality health and dental care, as well as for continued support of vital programs like RI Works and RIteCare.Strong prevention not only builds a healthier community, it makes economic sense to stem the tide of the rising cost of emergency care.
Our state faces dire economic challenges. I am committed to creating a climate of economic opportunity that is welcoming to employers, and a support system for small businesses available to anyone with a good idea and the willingness to work toward their dream. We all know that Rhode Island has a great deal of potential, and it is time torealize that potential throughstable jobs with good wages.
I believe that strong public schools are the cornerstone of our democracy. A quality education for every child is essential to our future as a citizenry and to job growth. We need to continue to fund public education despite budgetary challenges. And we need to increase opportunities for the voices of students, teachers, and parents to be heard.
I want to hear from youbecause it will take a true collective effortto build abetterfuture for all Rhode Islanders. I’m visiting every neighborhood inour district to hear your ideas and concerns. I’ve had amazing conversations and been inspired by the support I’ve already received. I hope to meet you before the September 11th primary. You can also call me at 401-340-5050 or email me at email@example.com with your ideas.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. So many people I meet wish that there was clearer communication about decisions made at the State House, and I want to set a tone from the start that I will communicate directly with you.
I hope I see you in the coming weeks, and I respectfully ask for your vote in the Democratic Primary on September 11th.