Much was made on Wednesday of the fact that the Virginia General Assembly elected Eileen Filler-Corn as its 56th Speaker, because Filler-Corn (D – Fairfax) is the first woman elected speaker in the 401 years in which there has been a Virginia General Assembly. Many noted that Filler-Corn is also the first Jewish Speaker of the assembly.
Eileen Robin Filler-Corn, 56, told Haaretz back in November, following the Democrats’ huge victory in Virginia local elections, that she had lived in Israel for close to a year in the 1980s. Speaking in Hebrew, she said, “I lived and studied in Jerusalem, where I also learned Hebrew. After that, I worked for several months on a moshav, picking melons. I’ve forgotten a lot of my Hebrew but I can still have this kind of conversation.”
Recalling the Charlottesville riots in the summer of 2017, when neo-Nazis and white supremacists marched with torches and chanted “Jews will not replace us,” Filler-Corn said, “It was shocking to see this level of anti-Semitism and racism and hate. People realized that we have to fight for our values.”
An estimated 150,000 Jews live in Virginia, most of them in the DC suburbs. Filler-Corn is on the board of the Virginia American Jewish Committee chapter and served on the board of her synagogue, Congregation Adat Reyim, in Springfield.
“Being Jewish is an important part of who I am. I grew up thinking how to do tikkun olam — how to make things better around me. That’s what I want to do now in Richmond,” she told Haaretz.
One of Filler-Corn’s top priorities is preventing gun violence. She and other Democrats have formed a “Safe Virginia Initiative” task force, which she co-chairs. When Republican assembly delegates refused to consider gun safety legislation, she stated that action on gun safety must be taken in order to prioritize school safety. With a Democratic majority this year, she is expected to carry a gun safety initiative in the assembly.