First lady keeps focus on issues in speech to UJA women donors

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 (JTA) – Putting the Monica Lewinsky scandal aside, first lady Hillary Clinton basked in the warm support of some 2,000 women at the United Jewish Appeal’s annual Lion of Judah conference. Clinton focused on her trademark issues of health care, child care, reproductive choice and human rights in a luncheon speech for women who give at least $5,000 a year to their local UJA-federation campaigns. Introduced as a “passionate advocate for women and families,” the first lady did not disappoint the enthusiastic donors, who rushed the room in a stampede when the doors opened. “No one need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world,” Clinton said, quoting Anne Frank, the idealistic young diarist who perished in the Holocaust. “I believe that with all my heart,” she said. The first lady, a lifelong passionate advocate for women’s issues, went on to push the women to work, at home and abroad, to make “the progress of nations depend on the progress of women.” Clinton rallied the faithful in the room, who interrupted her with applause nine times during her 45-minute speech. Recalling this week’s Torah portion, in which Moses prepares the children of Israel to enter the promised land, Clinton urged the women to be “responsible not only to God but to one another.” The message resonated with the women at the conference. “She speaks for women everywhere. She’s what we’re all about,” said Marcia Karbank, a Lion of Judah donor from Kansas. “We need to focus on our futures and what’s relevant and important” – not the Lewinsky scandal, said Karbank, echoing the sentiments of more than two dozen women interviewed at the conference. “She is a class act to be able to come here to give us support at a time when we should be supporting her,” said Merry Bodziner from Atlanta. Like many of the women, Bodziner said she was impressed with Clinton’s speech. “She is absolutely conscious and supportive of what we are about.” Women attending the three-day Lion of Judah conference also heard Israel’s new ambassador to Washington, Zalman Shoval, participate in a panel discussion with Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinian representative to the United Nations. (JTA student intern Mica Schneider in Washington contributed to this report.)

NEXT STORY