The D.C. Council will welcome two new Jewish members in January when Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) and Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) are sworn in and take their seats at the John A. Wilson Building. Nadeau unseated four-time incumbent Jim Graham in the April primary and coasted to victory in the general election on Nov. 4, while Silverman faced a tougher general election challenge in a crowded race to replace David Catania, who lost his mayoral bid to Muriel Bowser.
Silverman, 41, and Nadeau, 34, are progressive activists who align on many issues, especially on tackling what they consider the city’s affordable housing crisis. They both are members of D.C.-based Jews United for Justice (JUFJ) and received endorsements from the community organization’s first-ever campaign fund.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to work with Elissa, who has been a tireless advocate not only in the Jewish community but broadly in the progressive community,” said Nadeau. “Her experience is going to bring a tremendous amount of progress to the council.”
Silverman’s experience includes most recently working as a communications director at the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI) where she helped coordinate successful efforts to raise the city’s minimum wage and expand paid sick days to restaurant workers. Before that, she was a reporter for Washington City Paper and The Washington Post.
She is excited to take on what she sees as the city’s biggest challenge: ensuring that all residents share in the city’s prosperity.
“I think the question that we face is what kind of city are we going to grow into? We have a tremendous income inequality gap,” said Silverman. “How do we create thriving communities throughout the city in every ward? That’s going to be a major focus of mine on the council.”
Silverman wants to focus on the budget to “make sure we are optimizing our resources and spending our dollars well.” She wants city government to be accessible and transparent, and for the city to work “in a way that is efficient and cost effective and serves residents no matter where they live, in every ward.”
She honed her Jewish social justice activism skills while participating in JUFJ’s Jeremiah Fellowship and in 2012 Silverman received the Heschel Vision Award from JUFJ along with Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).
“We’re incredibly excited to see Elissa elected to the D.C. Council because she’s been a leader for many years on the most challenging issues facing the city, and we’re confident that as a council member she’ll help address the affordable housing crisis and homelessness crisis and increase access to jobs for D.C. residents,” said Jacob Feinspan, JUFJ executive director.
Silverman is a member of the Hill Havurah Jewish community on Capitol Hill. She said many members contributed and volunteered on her campaign.
“I would love to have even more Jewish residents involved in our local government because I do think that Judaism has a big social-justice mission, and we have a lot of challenges in our city,” said Silverman. “I think we only become a great city when we have our citizens engaged in our future, and I would love to hear from members of the D.C. Jewish community about how they can contribute to making this an even better place to live.”