You should know… Krissy Roth

Photo by Justin Katz
Photo by Justin Katz

Krissy Roth, 29, has been passionate about policy since high school. The McLean native jokes that it was “super nerdy” when she “developed a love of the Constitution.” She went on to study communications management and design with a minor in politics at Ithaca College in New York. But that same love has served her well as a deputy director of domestic policy for the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, which she joined in January 2015.

Where does your passion come from?

I think it comes from my parents and growing up in the area. My mom is a pretty similar kind of person and on the rides to school, C-Span or NPR were my options. I’ve always felt it was important for us, as Americans, to be present and know what is going on in our country. I think when I discovered advocacy, I sort of fell in love with it.

It all starts with [the Supreme Court case Richard and Mildred] Loving v. Virginia. [The case made interracial marriages legal in Virginia.] I’m a biracial person. That decision happened in the same state that my interracial family started in.

That [case] has real implications on my life and I see the sort of victory that was for my family and I think about so many other injustices that other people face. So that’s really why I do this work, I think I was lucky enough to be born at a time when [laws against interracial marriage] wasn’t a barrier for me.

What prompted your love of the Constitution?

In government class, we had a good teacher who talked a lot about the Supreme Court. I see the Supreme Court as this real opportunity to change laws that are significant to a lot of people.
What is really beautiful about America and the Constitution is the [way] that these values were put in writing. Some people read it one way, and some people read it the other way. That debate is never ending, which also feels very Jewish to me, and is something incredibly intriguing and beautiful that we have these rights and they’re clearly enumerated. But there’s always going to be some new circumstance that come up for debate.

Why does the debate feel Jewish?

One of the things I like very much about Judaism is that the conversation is about questions, and not about answers. In looking at the law, there’s going to be times where the case law is settled. But depending on the judges that are making the decisions, that may change. Either side of the argument may change from time to time but things, even though there may be a verdict, are not often totally settled. In reading the Constitution, there’s generally plenty of debate there or we wouldn’t still be in this experiment of democracy.

What was a time when being African American and Jewish intersected for you?

JCPA signed onto an amicus brief last year on Zubik v. Burwell case. I came to this job with experience in women’s reproductive rights and healthcare. It’s a controversial issue to many, but I think the Jewish community has pretty clear law on that issue when you look at [Jewish] law. [I saw] my Jewish values in defense of something that also impacts women of color, like access to contraceptive coverage, which was at stake in that particular case.

That is exactly the space I want to sit in. Both my Jewish values — even though not everyone in the Jewish community feels that way — support this and I also know it’s the right thing to do for this other community that I’m a part of.

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