Former ADL Florida director looks to replace Ted Deutch
Hava Holzhauer is also a former assistant state attorney
As the former Florida regional director for the Anti-Defamation League from 2013-17, Hava Holzhauer watched as hate crimes against the Jewish community steadily rose over a matter of several years.
“I’ve seen painful moments for people in the community. I know that Floridians, Americans are looking for something else,” she told Jewish Insider in a recent interview. “And they’re looking for people to not be distracted but to really help with issues that are important to them.”
Now, the former assistant state attorney is hoping to bring the tools she learned at the state and local levels to Congress. Holzhauer announced in April that she was entering the race to succeed Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), who is leaving Congress to helm the American Jewish Committee.
“A pillar of Jewish practice is working to make the world a better place — tikkun olam,” Holzhauer said. “I’m running for Congress to make the world a better place.”
She listed drug pricing, affordable housing, voting rights, abortion rights and protecting democracy as among the top issues in Florida and in her district — which she described as “very different than what’s been going on in our state,” decrying Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as “distracted” and “scapegoating people” rather than “helping people with these issues.”
The congressional hopeful described herself as “a moderate in some ways and a progressive in other ways. I am a people-first person. I would rather be smart than right.”
Deutch’s district is home to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the site of one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.
Following last week’s shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, Holzhauer said in a statement, “Every elected official who has stood in the way of gun reform in the years since Columbine, Sandy Hook, and our own Parkland shootings, has the blood of these children on their hands. That includes Mitch McConnell, Rick Scott and every cowardly, self-serving legislator in the Senate and House of Representatives blocking sensible gun legislation.”
Holzhauer said that she prosecuted numerous hate crimes during her time as a state attorney, detailing one antisemitic incident in which a student was assaulted by a group of his classmates.
“They had developed a strong hatred or dislike for Jewish people in particular over time and they directed their anger at him,” she said.
At ADL, she continued, “it’s a different toolbox… it’s standing up and fighting, using research and education and incident handling and coalition-building. And I think it’s this process that’s needed to create possibility and progress for people in this country and for people in Florida.”
During her time at the nonprofit, Holzhauer said she found gaps in the collection of hate crimes statistics at the federal level. She’s now calling for action to correct the deficits. “When it’s not required, it’s often something that doesn’t get done,” she said. “So I think it would be primary to increase that collection and be able to monitor what’s going on so that we can be responsive.”
Former ADL National Director Abe Foxman, who hired Holzhauer, described her as a “serious person, a knowledgable person, experienced — she knows her stuff on community issues, on social issues, she’s strong on Israel, on antisemitism.”
Foxman said Holzhauer’s experience both inside and outside of ADL and her understanding of community issues, responding to crises and advocating for the community would likely serve her well as a member of Congress.
Holzhauer enters the race in South Florida’s 22nd Congressional District with a significant amount of ground to make up before the state’s primary at the end of August. Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz, a former state representative and director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, entered the race in March, just days after Deutch announced his retirement. Moskowitz raised $666,000 by the close of the first quarter and has racked up endorsements from a slew of local and national elected officials.
Other Democrats seeking the seat include Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor Ben Sorensen and airline pilot Curtis Calabrese. Moskowitz has picked up the endorsements of several other Democrats who local politicos had seen as potential candidates. Calabrese may be ineligible to run in the primary, having registered as a Democrat just two weeks before declaring his candidacy.
Holzhauer announced on May 5 that she had raised more than $100,000 during her first week in the race, but declined to provide updated totals.
“We have an incredible team that we put together,” she said. “I think there’s many paths to elected office, and that we’re stronger as a community as a nation, when experienced, strong advocates and doers like myself, are part of the electorate… My opinions and the way I work, they’re not created because I’m running for office. It’s who I am.”
Like Moskowitz, Holzhauer pledged to carry on Deutch’s legacy as an outspoken member of Congress on issues related to Israel, saying she is “close personal friends” with the congressman and has “had a lot of conversations” with him about Israel, on which they “line up extremely closely.”
Deutch did not respond to a request for comment.
“Israel is incredibly important to me personally,” Holzhauer, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors said, noting that some of her relatives were murdered in the Holocaust, while others found safe haven in Israel. “Israel’s existence is fundamental. To me there’s no question — I am a Zionist, and I support the safety and security and continued existence of the State of Israel.”
She added that she would “be pushing back in the same way” on anti-Israel rhetoric in Congress that Deutch has, adding that “there isn’t a question anymore” that anti-Israel politics are linked to antisemitism.
In a September 2021 op-ed in a local newspaper, Holzhauer specifically condemned the eight Democrats who voted against supplemental Iron Dome funding, arguing that “Using the funding of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system as a dispensable game piece in promoting one’s own agenda flies in the face of the values and political-philosophical ideals usually associated with what it means to be progressive.”
Holzhauer criticized the Democrats who voted against the funding as being “unworthy” of being called progressives.
Their votes, she continued, support “a false narrative that ignores empirical methods, misidentifies the most ardent sources of Palestinian suffering, and denies Jewish persons their indigenous homeland.”
She argued that truly “progressive thinking” about assisting Palestinians would include addressing human rights, working conditions, economic and gender inequality and terrorism and extremism; providing greater “accountability measures” for U.S. aid; supporting educational programs; creating pathways for Israeli-Palestinian collaboration and improving security for Israel.
The congressional hopeful told JI she has been to Israel many times — when she was younger, primarily to meet various relatives in Israel, including her grandmother, who made aliyah. “It’s a thriving democracy that is also the homeland of the Jewish people. So for me, it’s always exciting to be there and to be with family and to see the country and see what’s been built in the middle of the desert.”
Holzhauer said she supports a two-state solution, with the U.S. “as a mediator in the future for direct talks and finding a long-term solution to peace and opportunity in the region for Israelis and Palestinians.” She also supports humanitarian aid to alleviate the Palestinians’ “huge, horrible humanitarian crisis” but said that oversight is important to prevent the funding from ending up in the hands of terrorists and extremists.
She praised the Abraham Accords as an “incredibly important first step” in “restructuring” regional diplomacy, putting Israel in a “stronger position.” She pledged her support to the normalization agreements’ continued growth.
Holzhauer said she supports “finding a diplomatic solution to prevent a nuclear Iran,” but has not yet seen a verification mechanism, including in the 2015 nuclear deal, “that would make me comfortable to ensure Iran isn’t cheating on the deal.”
Closer to home, as her campaign for Congress gears up, Holzhauer will likely be banking in part on the community connections she forged during her time with ADL. “When you walked into somebody’s home, she was always welcome,” Foxman told JI. “You always knew that she had relationships.”