Pittsburgh Jews stick up for Summer Lee amid attacks from Israel lobby | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh Jews stick up for Summer Lee amid attacks from Israel lobby

click to enlarge Pittsburgh Jews stick up for Summer Lee amid attacks from Israel lobby (2)
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
Summer Lee
Four days before a high-stakes election that will determine Pittsburgh’s representation in the U.S. House of Representatives, local Jewish community leaders are defending Democratic candidate Summer Lee against attack ads paid for by the pro-Israel lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

The United Democracy Project, an AIPAC-affiliated SuperPAC, previously spent $2 million opposing Summer Lee in her primary race and has now spent $1 million more on ads arguing that Lee's views on racial justice, police, and prisons are too extreme for PA-12. The ads reportedly do not mention Israel. 

About 250 Pittsburgh Jews signed an open letter denouncing these ads, writing that AIPAC’s definition of “extreme” is “completely opposite to that held by the majority of American Jews—who worry about the stark rise in antisemitism and white nationalism in our state and in our country."

The letter condemns AIPAC’s choice to support Republican politicians who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and who promote the antisemitic “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, which, they write, “helped inspire the murder of eleven members of the three synagogues housed at Tree of Life."

At a
press conference this morning on the corner of Murray Avenue and Darlington Road in Squirrel Hill, Jewish community leaders rallied in support of Lee. Elected officials including Pittsburgh City Council Member Erika Strassburger and State Representative Dan Frankel emphasized Lee’s support of environmental regulations, unions, abortion rights, and public benefits in contrast to her conservative opponent Republican Mike Doyle.

Lee has “a proven track record to protect our freedoms,” Strassburger said. “Our freedom to clean air, our freedom to clean water, our freedom to choose if and when we grow our family, our freedom to join collectively as workers to increase wages or benefits through labor unions, and to retire with Medicare and Social Security benefits. All things that Republican Mike Doyle would strip away from us.”

Notably, Pittsburgh Jewish community and Democratic leader Steve Irwin, who narrowly lost this spring’s primary election to Lee, also spoke in support of Lee’s campaign, saying he will vote for her in Tuesday’s election.

“There’s no time to be distracted,” Irwin said. “We have to come together, both as Jews and as Democrats,” going on to emphasize that Democrats, in general, are supportive of the Israeli government and arguing that the Republican Party presents the most salient threat to religious and individual liberty in the U.S.

“This isn’t the first time that we’ve stood together,” Lee said at the press conference, speaking of her connections to the Squirrel Hill community. She called for supporters to “dig deep and recognize those connections we have to each other, our shared struggles, our shared humanity. Because the threat to our communities is very real. … We need to talk about crime and we need to talk about policing and we need to talk about prisons but we need to talk about them in a way that will actually solve the problem, not ways that will just inflame hatred,” Lee said, repeating calls for increased investment in social services and affordable housing.

“We must vote for Democrats up and down the ticket," Lee said. "We cannot and will not forfeit Pittsburgh, western Pennsylvania, the 12th Congressional District, or our country to an extremist party that only inflames hate.”