Ariana Mentzel (34), a Democrat from Beverly Hills, MI, leads college students in conversations about anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the Detroit Center for Civil Discourse. Named one of Detroit Jewish News’ “36 under 36,” she serves as the vice president Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. Mentzel also served as former Oakland County Chair of the Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus. She runs a preschool Shabbat program at her temple.
We are providing the unfiltered opinions of voters interviewed for this project. Those views are based on their understanding and perception of facts and information from a range of sources. In some cases, that information may be misleading or incorrect.
What traits matter to you the most when choosing a candidate?
I like politicians who are inspirational, that set a tone for a country. I think charisma is important, but it’s not my X factor. I prefer someone who is practical, diplomatic, knowledgeable, smart and always learning. And legislative experience is important.
Are there any traits that make a candidate unacceptable to you?
I don’t like anyone who reminds me of Donald Trump and has that cult mentality of a sort of populist candidate; someone who thinks they’re the best person and only they can do what needs to be done. I see similarities between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump and it bothers me. Bernie’s not on my radar for support. I want someone diplomatic, someone who will actually move the needle forward and knows there’s another side of the aisle to deal with. I don’t think he’s the person that would move the needle forward. I think, like Trump, he’s more of a divisive type.
What are the top three policy issues that you’re concerned about in this election cycle?
Immigration, women’s right to choose and international policy. We see and read about the problems with the immigration process everyday, and because it’s in my face I can’t ignore it. As far as women’s rights, in terms of abortion, it’s more of an identity, being a woman and knowing that even today, there are places where women can’t get birth control or families are forcing them to keep a baby or shaming them for having sex out of marriage. I know people who, for medical reasons, needed an abortion and had badly wanted the baby. It was absolutely horrible. And international policy is something I’ve been involved in academically. Having an Israeli father and being politically involved, I really can’t escape U.S.-Israel relations policy. And I think international policy has a lot to do with immigration. If things were done better in other parts of the world, like Latin America, then maybe there wouldn’t be this rush of asylum seekers to the United States.
How does your connection to Israel shape your political views?
Being Jewish and having an Israeli father, plus my Jewish education has always made me very aware of what it means to be Jewish in the diaspora, trying to make sense of how a people could survive two thousand years out of their homeland and then, through a series of events, reestablish one. It’s complicated and shapes a lot of my political views. I sometimes find myself defensive about Israel and, other times expecting more out of my own people.