Anna Urman has an unusual background for a candidate running for office in Northern Virginia.
Urman, 38, who is campaigning for the Virginia House of Delegates in the 43rd District in southeastern Fairfax County, is an immigrant, Jewish and a Republican. She was born in what is now Belarus to musician parents, who moved the family to what is now Lithuania before Urman started elementary school. They fled what was then the Soviet Union in 1988 and settled in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Urman applied for citizenship as soon as she turned 18 and became a citizen at 21.
“Because you weren’t able to practice Judaism, we were raised pretty much atheist,” she said. “My grandparents kept hush-hush about their religion.”
The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) helped her family immigrate to the United States and enrolled Urman in a yeshiva for sixth and seventh grade, where she was introduced to Jewish practices.
“It was completely foreign territory. Coming from a school where the notion of a divinity, the notion of God, was laughed at, literally, in the classroom to being able to be exposed to the traditions and the culture and history and religion of [Judaism] was a completely different world,” she said.
In 1999 she moved to the Washington area to attend Georgetown University Law School, locating to Northern Virginia a year later, where she has been living ever since. Urman lives in Alexandria with her husband, two children and two dogs. She is the director of Virginia Procurement Technical Assistance Program at George Mason University and the president of Tactical Insight, advising clients on procurement strategies.
She says she still struggles with Judaism because she was raised essentially as an atheist. Urman says she does keep many Jewish traditions alive for her children.
“I do the major holidays and share the stories with them. But, it still feels like I am Jewish almost in a negative sense. My family has suffered because [of being] Jewish,” she said. “I haven’t been able to fully exercise it — because I almost don’t know how to be part of that community because I wasn’t raised in it.
“The Russian Jewish community is vastly different from the mainstream American Jewish community,” she continued. “You’re together because of what you suffered as opposed to what you’re aspiring to.”
Urman described Northern Virginia as a great place to raise a family. She said she is running for office because she sees areas for improvement, including jobs, transportation and schools.
Her main opponent, Mark D. Sickles, a Democrat serving his sixth term, said his priorities align with the Jewish community’s and that he has a strong record in education, employment and other areas.
“For more than 11 years I have been fighting for Northern Virginia’s middle-class working families, increased and affordable educational opportunities, better transportation solutions, equality, women’s rights and economic policies to help us diversify as federal sequestration threatens our economy,” Sickles said in a statement when he filed for re-election.
A politically engaged population is one of the biggest advantages to living in the Washington region, she said.
“Even though we love to complain here about all the politics, I think it brings us closer together. The fact that our local news is the national news makes us a little bit more aware of the world around us. And I like having uncomfortable conversations. I love having friends that are Republicans and Democrats, and we can discuss these things. And sometimes we get into pretty contentious arguments. But this is the same reason I advocate that everybody needs to go out and vote.”