The RWJDC club was founded in 1983, in the San Francisco apartment of John Rothmann, who, though a speechwriter for former President Nixon, has been a registered Democrat since the 1970s. "The logic was very clear. There was a Chinese Democratic club and a black Democratic club and a Latino Democratic club, so why shouldn't there be a Jewish Democratic club?" said Rothmann, who is currently a talk-show host on KGO Radio.
At that time grassroots organizing was a growing phenomenon and for the first time ethnic communities were gaining strength. Local San Francisco Jewish political activists thought it was critical that Jews not be left behind.
In its earliest months, the club was named after Rothmann's great-uncle, Henry Ulysses Brandenstein, who had been, for some time, the last Jewish Democrat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Early debates about the name of the club emphasized the importance of not having a Jewish name, particularly in partisan politics. It wasn't long before the organizers decided to change the name to honor Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat and Righteous Gentile who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II.
Some of the early work of the Wallenberg Club in the early '80s involved fighting the recall effort against then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein, and later, working with the LGBT community and then-Supervisor Angela Alioto to co-sponsor an anti-hate crime law.
About the Club
The Raoul Wallenberg Jewish Democratic Club has more than 500 active members as well as a regional board. All of our operations are run completely by volunteers.
In over 30 years of activities in San Francisco, the Wallenberg club has become a top advocate on important issues to the Jewish community. The Club's endorsement is one of the most coveted in San Francisco and the vast majority of local candidates for elective office sit down for interviews with our Political Action Committee.
The Wallenberg Club has hosted local and state-wide elected officials at numerous events and the Wallenberg Club has been a platform for future leaders in our political community. Wallenberg members who have gone on to careers in politics themselves include: Former State Senator Mark Leno, former Supervisor and San Francisco Democratic Party Chair Leslie Katz, as well as former Community College Board Members Natalie Berg and Milton Marks III Z"L.
Members of the Wallenberg Club include people with a wide range of experience and involvement in the local Jewish community as well as the local Democratic political community. In addition to providing endorsements we also seek to educate elected officials on issues that are important to the Jewish Community. We also work to inform our membership on topics of interest in the City such as homelessness, the city budget crisis and public power.
The Club has also been a force on issues pertaining to Israel, in particular, fighting anti-Israel resolutions in the cities of San Francisco and Berkeley. In recent years, the club joined in the Jewish Community Relations Council's campaign to convince San Francisco's Rainbow Grocery to drop its boycott of Israeli goods and SFMTA to amend its advertising policy to prevent hate speech. We also fought to force a local community service organization to drop a requirement that its members sign an anti-Israel pledge.
Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish architect, businessman, diplomat and humanitarian. He is widely celebrated for his successful efforts to rescue tens of thousands to about one hundred thousand Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary during the Holocaust from Hungarian Fascists and the Nazis during the later stages of World War II. While serving as Sweden's special envoy in Budapest between July and December 1944, Wallenberg issued protective passports and sheltered Jews in buildings designated as Swedish territory saving tens of thousands of lives.
On January 17, 1945,during the Siege of Budapest by the Red Army, Wallenberg was detained by Soviet authorities on suspicion of espionage and subsequently disappeared. He was later reported to have died on July 17, 1947, while imprisoned in the Lubyanka, a building located in Moscow, Russia, housing both the KGB headquarters and its affiliated prison. The motives behind Wallenberg's arrest and imprisonment by the Soviet government, along with questions surrounding the circumstances of his death and his possible ties to US intelligence, remain mysterious and are the subject of continued speculation.
Due to his courageous actions on behalf of the Hungarian Jews, Raoul Wallenberg has been the subject of numerous humanitarian honors in the decades following his presumed death. In 1981, U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos, himself one of those saved by Wallenberg, sponsored a bill making Wallenberg an Honorary Citizen of the United States. He is also an honorary citizen of Canada, Hungary, Australia and Israel. Israel has also designated Wallenberg one of the Righteous among the Nations. Monuments have been dedicated to him, and streets have been named after him throughout the world. A Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States was created in 1981 to "perpetuate the humanitarian ideals and the nonviolent courage of Raoul Wallenberg". It gives the Raoul Wallenberg Award annually to recognize persons who carry out those goals. A postage stamp was issued by the U.S. in his honour in 1997. On July 26, 2012 he was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Congress "in recognition of his achievements and heroic actions during the Holocaust."
Interim Leadership Team
Former Presidents & Lifetime Members
Milton Marks, III