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July 04, 1986 - Image 15

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-07-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Debbie Schlussel

"The main thing,
what it all boils down
to for me, is Israel."

W

oa,

hile other kids were
watching Sunday morn-
ing cartoons, a young
Debbie Schlussel
watched Meet the Press, a revealing
indication of the future in store for
"one of the Teen Age Republicans who
really makes a difference," according
to Megan Lott, the organizational di-
rector of National Teen Age Republi-
cans.
Schlussel partially credits her
father, Dr. Herschel Schlussel, with
prompting her early political interest
through his involvement in the Na-
tional Jewish Coalition for Reagan/
Bush. But it was while researching a
pre-election column on President Rea-
gan for the Southfield High School
newspaper that Schlussel, then an
11th grader, visited Reagan's cam-
paign office looking for facts and fig-
ures. The political activity there
encouraged her to become more deeply
involved, and she was advised to join
the Teen Age Republicans, or TARS, a
national group of about 200,000 teens
dedicated to the education, training,
and promotion of "lifelong Republican
ideals," according to one spokesperson.
So with the characteristic deter-
mination that has allowed her to suc-
ceed in her past athletic and academic
pursuits, Schlussel founded and
bacame chairman of the 17th District,
Southfield, and Oakland County
TARS. She became active in the Re-
publican Party, attended Reagan's in-
auguration, went to conventions as a
representative, and was eventually
made youth chairman of the 17th Dis-
trict Republican Committee, an un-
paid position that allows her voting
°power and a seat on the board with
senior members.
Seemingly catapulted into a posi-
tion of political success while still a
teen, Schlussel admits that, somewhat
disappointingly, competition was less
than overwhelming. "It's an indica-
tion," she says, that not enough kids
are involved." But Lott, who works out
of the national TARS office in Manas-
sas, Virginia, says that Schlussel's
achievements have been a direct re-
sult of her responsible, outgoing, and
determined nature. "She is consis-
tently the one to pay close attention to
speakers and respond with her own
questions, consistently the one to do
research and reading. She's always
willing to do the nitty gritty," Lott
said.
These qualities helped Schlussel
to win the National Teen Age Republi-
can Valedictorian Award while at-
tending the National TARS Leader-
ship Conference last July. Out of the
conference's 120 invited participants,
Schlussel was judged the most in-
volved and knowledgeable about poli-
tics. In addition to making an address
at the conference banquet, the award
allowed her to meet with various con-
gressmen and senators. Most impor-

tantly, however, Schlussel became the
youngest United States congressional
intern on Capitol Hill when she
worked last summer for Rep. Mark Sil-
jander (R-Three Rivers), a job she will
hold again this summer.
Despite the "pressure" that
Schlussel cites as the most difficult
part of an internship, the job im-

Debbie Schlussel and Rep. Jack Kemp

pressed her with the amount of dif-
ference one person can make in poli-
tics. "Here I'd be researching an issue,
and then later I'd see my work on the
nightly news," says Schlussel, whose
work included writing letters,
speeches, and a bill condemning Soviet
violations of a United Nations declara-
tion on human rights. Robin Luketine,
the chief of staff for Siljander, remarks
that "Debbie is ususual in her matur-
ity and her exceptional ability to inte-
grate politics and issues. She really
impressed me with her tenacity."
Schlussel candidly addresses the •
"controversial" position that Siljander
holds among some of the Jewish corn-
munity. "First of all, it was an intern
who wrote that statement," she points
out, referring to Siljander's support of
a candidate with the phrase, "put an-
other Christian in Congress."
He wasn't attacking Judaism or
saying people shouldn't vote for a
Jewish person," she says. "I feel he's
very pro-Jewish."
Because of her Judaism, Schlus-
sel, a member of Orthodox congrega-
tions Shomrey Emunah and Young Is-
rael of Greenfield, was actually an
asset to the staff," according to
Luketine. "She gave us insight into
the political niceties of Jewish areas,"
he said. And Schlussel also supports
Siljander in those areas. He won't
support the PLO ever, and Israel is
non-negotiable," she says. Now that's
really pro-Israel."
Her devotions to Judaism and Is-
rael have played a major role in
Schlussel's support of the Republican
Party. The conservative Republican
party more embodies the traditional,

pro-family, pro-life values of
Judaism," she stresses. But no matter
how conservative the politician, she
notes, he will not have Schlussel's
support if he does not support Israel.
Schlussel also explains most of
her conservative views as they apply
to specific "Jewish" concerns. These
include:
• A desire for anti-abortion laws
to parallel the pro-life codes of
Judaism..
• Opposition to giving gays
rights as a group. "I'm against
homosexuality and so is Judaism."
• Support for Nicaraguan free-
dom fighters. "To support the San-
danista's would be to support an anti-
Semitic government.
"Israel and the Jewish people
come first," Schlussel says. But she
admonishes "the majority of Jewish
people who always vote Democrat."
Adding that she no longer feels the
Democrats embody pro-family values,
Schlussel also questions those Jews
who are against Republican clergy-
men Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.
"Like their religion or not, these
people have raised millions and mil-
lions of dollars for Israel," she notes.
Schlussel's current project is her
support of Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.)
for the Republican nomination to the
presidency. For her, Kemp's main at-
traction is his pledge to not negotiate
away Israel." She first became in-
terested in Kemp at a Midwest Repub-
lican party convention last June

where she observed him to be a "new-
style Republican" whose ideals ap-
pealed to teens. She has now met per-
sonally with Kemp several times and
is trying to secure him Jewish support
as well as precinct delegates.
Though it sounds as if Schlussel's
busy life is entirely devoted to political
pursuits, this happily-active teen has
not allowed her success to limit other
activities. Though some of her inter-
ests, such as radio, debate, forensics,
and journalism, will admittedly give
her "communications skills for poli-
tics," others, such as her work as a
model and "Teen Board" member for
Saks Fifth Avenue, reflect the diver-
sity of her interests and achievements.
Schlussel's bright future is not
without planning: She will enter the
University of Michigan, then hope-
fully obtain a law degree, seek a na-
tional political office — first as a con-
gresswoman, then as a senator. But is
this realistic? Luketine, for one, ad-
mits that "knowledge has to first
translate into votes." But, he says,
Most successful people start out as
Debbie has."
For the confident Schlussel, a
political career will allow the opportu-
nity to become a "spokesperson for the
Jews." In people like Megan Lott, who
had never before met an Orthodox per-
son, Schlussel sees a chance to explain
and teach about her religion. But per..
haps most valuably, this Jewish leader
possesses the trait that truly defines
political service. "I care," she says pro-
udly, "I really- care." 1:1

Emily Jampel

"I just want to learn
as much as I can
about politics."

IN

'

hen Emily Jampel's
older sister suggested
that she become in-
volved in a political
campaign during the 1984 election
season, it seemed like a perfectly
natural idea. After all, Jampel ; then
16, had always been interested in poli-
tics. "I've always kept up with the
news and been informed through my
reading," notes this long-time partici-
pant in school government, "and I see
myself as a hard worker." •
These were most important in-
gredients, according to Marda Robil-
lard, the assistant press secretary/
Michigan liason for Senator Carl
Levin (D-Mich.). The best way for a
young person to break into politics is
through political campaigns," she
says. "We never have enough busy
hands!"
But, as is characteristic of all
Jampel's pursuits, the experience
working for Levin's re-election cam-
paign turned out to be as educational
as it was productive. She chose to work
for Levin partially because of her ac-
cessability to his local campaign office
and partially to reflect her growing
Democratic views. But she stresses
that she also would have worked for a
Republican.

"I would view it as a learning ex-
perience to work for someone who I
didn't agree with," she says. "To make
intelligent decisions, you really do
have to know both sides."
Though her work during the

Emily Jampel and Sen. Carl Levin

summer of 1984 consisted largely of
"stuffing envelopes, stamping
envelopes, and addressing envelopes,"

Continued on next page

15

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