Activist Betsy Sheerr Honored by Joint Action Committee


Betsy Sheerr’s tireless commitment was the reason that movers and shakers gathered for a JAC fundraiser luncheon in Sheerr’s name.

The photographs on the video screens in the packed banquet room at the Union League showed Betsy Sheerr, seemingly ageless, standing next to countless politicians: Bob Kerrey. Gabby Giffords. Joe Lieberman. Barack and Michelle Obama. Hillary Clinton.

It was just a few of the prominent people that the founding member and past president of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) has worked with over the years to promote JAC’s three-tiered agenda: separation of religion and state; reproductive rights; and the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Sheerr’s tireless commitment was the reason that movers and shakers gathered for a JAC fundraiser luncheon in Sheerr’s name.

Sen. Bob Casey was one of the first to try to characterize Sheerr’s accomplishments.

“Advocate and activist. Fierce defender of Israel. Fighter for women. Communicator par excellence and, of course, counselor. She was that for me as a candidate and as a public official.”

Some admirers sent Sheerr regards via video, including Sen. Barbara Boxer — one of the longest-serving Jewish members of Congress — and Vice President Joe Biden.

Boxer said, “For four decades, [Sheerr] has fought for civil rights, for social justice, reproductive health for all women, and an unbreakable relationship between the United States and Israel.”

Vice President Biden called Sheerr, 65, a friend and ally.

“You’ve played such a critical role in strengthening our relationship with Israel and fighting for equal rights for women everywhere in the world,” he said.

JAC Executive Director Marcia Balonik read a note from Clinton.

“Please note that I am cheering for you from afar,” Clinton wrote. “You have been a remarkable role model to countless women through your political activism and philanthropy, and have embodied the spirit of tikkun olam, inspiring others to join the cause for equality and social justice.”

After being presented with an award — an etched-glass dreidel because Sheerr collects dreidels — Sheerr addressed the crowd.

She thanked her family and spoke about her late parents: “Their example, their values, their nurturing. These decades of advocacy for the Jewish community and for people in need everywhere comes straight from Corky and Gene.”

She then explained how, despite being a 1960s-bred activist, she got involved in working on issues from the inside.

“About 40 years ago, it struck me that political activism was a natural outgrowth of community activism,” she said.

Sheer called political activism “Torah in action,” and said she’s supported JAC for 35 years because it’s bipartisan, values-driven, and has given her the opportunity to make change in the world. “As a Jewish American woman, it fits just right,” she said.

“As we are taught in Judaism about repairing our fractured world, we are not required to finish the task, but neither are we free to desist from trying.”


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