Sara Ehrman, a Democratic Party mainstay who advised Hillary Rodham not to marry Bill Clinton and later advised President Clinton on Israel-Arab peacemaking, has died.
Ehrman died on June 3 at the age of 98 of endocarditis, a family friend reported.
She described herself as “first a Jew, second a Democrat and above all a feminist,” according to the New York Times.
Ehrman met Rodham during the 1972 George McGovern presidential campaign. The attorney was sent to San Antonio, where the party was doing voter registration for Mexican-Americans.
“A young woman comes in, she looks 19, all in brown with Coke-bottle glasses. She said, ‘I’m Hillary Rodham, the lawyer.’ And everyone in the room said, ‘We don’t want a girl, we want a real lawyer.’ We immediately bonded as outsiders,” Ehrman recalled in a 2015 interview with JTA.
Two years later, Rodham was hired by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee to help investigate President Richard Nixon’s role in the Watergate scandal. Ehrman invited her to stay at her house, and Rodham agreed.
After Nixon resigned, the two drove together from Washington to Fayetteville, where Bill Clinton was teaching law at the University of Arkansas and where Rodham planned to join him. “All the way down, I would say, ‘Are you out of your mind? It’s a godforsaken place, you can’t get decent food there, what are you going to do?’” recalled Ehrman.
Ehrman was the youngest daughter of Hungarian Jewish immigrants. Her mother died when she was 8 and she lived with an aunt in Manhattan who had 10 children. She became involved in the Labor Zionist movement while in high school.
Ehrman was conditionally accepted to Barnard College, but then failed high school chemistry, which she refused to retake in summer school.
She married Libert Ehrman in 1940; the couple had two sons and divorced 29 years later.
She started in politics in 1965 as a legislative assistant to Democratic Sen. Joseph S. Clark of Pennsylvania. In 1969, she became a legislative assistant to Democrat McGovern, then a senator from South Dakota, and served as director of issues and research for his 1972 presidential campaign.
Ehrman led Jewish outreach for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign and helped him organize his first trip as president to Israel as well as his attendance at the funeral of slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
She had served as political director of AIPAC and later worked with Americans for Peace Now and J Street, which were more in line with her support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
—JTA News and Features