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Linda Rae Sher, Democratic fundraiser who founded Jewish women’s PAC, dead at 73

The Gold Coast resident founded JACPAC, the nation’s first Jewish women’s political action committee, was a major fundraiser for President-elect Joe Biden, other Democrats.

Linda Rae Sher (center) with President-elect Joe Biden and incoming first lady Jill Biden.
Linda Rae Sher (center) with President-elect Joe Biden and incoming first lady Jill Biden.
Provided

Funeral services are planned Tuesday for Linda Rae Sher, who in 1980 founded JACPAC, a political action committee based in Highland Park that was the first national Jewish women’s PAC.

Ms. Sher — who was a major fundraiser for President-elect Joe Biden and other Democrats — died Sunday of complications from ovarian cancer, according to her friend Marcia Balonick, JACPAC’s executive director.

Ms. Sher was 73 and lived on the Gold Coast.

Ms. Sher and JACPAC — the Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs — were well-known among Democratic Party leaders in Washington.

Biden said he was “deeply saddened by the loss of Linda Sher and send my thoughts and prayers to her family. Linda was a longtime supporter who helped propel our campaign to victory this November, and I am forever grateful for her support. Linda’s legacy and her work in the name of democracy, peace and justice will live on for generations to come.”

“Linda Sher lit up every room she entered with her personality and her intellect,” U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “She glowed most when she talked about her family.”

Linda Rae Sher and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Linda Rae Sher and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Provided

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said: “I first met Linda Sher when I ran for Congress in 1982. Linda arrived at my door like an energy source ready to explode. She told me she was from JACPAC and wanted to help me win. She proceeded to stand by me in every re-election.”

“We’re all fortunate for Linda’s selfless work for and dedication to JACPAC,” U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., said. “And Democrats across the country and the positive results we’ve seen not just last week but over many years are due in no small part to her unrelenting efforts.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said: “Linda was my good friend and a mentor who warmly welcomed me into her group of women warriors, and she taught me so many life lessons over the years. She was as tough as she was kind and the person who you always wanted on your side in a fight for justice.”

U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., whose district includes Highland Park, said Ms. Sher’s “leadership with JACPAC was an inspiration in getting me to run for office, and she was an invaluable resource throughout my political career.”

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., said Ms. Sher was her “go to person for politics” and “one of the smartest political operatives I ever knew.”

JACPAC built a reputation for spotting contenders, especially women, early in their political careers and offering them crucial backing. It also was one of the first political action committees focused on helping candidates who supported reproductive choice, the separation of church and state, U.S.–Israel relations and gun control.

The organization worked off the theory that “you reach someone early, you find these people, get in,” and, even if the contribution was modest, “you got in when no one else knew who they were,” Balonick said.

“We worked for women candidates because women had a hard time raising money. … They remembered us because we came in when no one else was.”

Ms. Sher “was one of the smartest women I knew,” Balonick said.

She grew up Linda Rae Rosen in Skokie, where she attended Cleveland elementary school and Oakview Junior High.

She devoured every Nancy Drew mystery and “was a voracious reader,” her sister Loren Friend said. “When my parents said, ‘Lights out,’ she would be under the blanket with a flashlight.”

She graduated from Niles East High School in Skokie and, after attending the University of Colorado at Boulder, worked at a stockbroker’s office in the Palmolive Building, once known as the Playboy Building, at 919 N. Michigan Ave.

The building was owned by the family of David Sher, her future husband. After he visited the stockbroker’s office to distribute cigars on “Secretary’s Day,” “She asked, ‘Where’s my cigar?’ ’’ their daughter Jamie said. “And he said, ‘No, you get dinner.’ ’’

Her political activism grew after a trip they took to Israel as newlyweds.

“That trip inspired her to make it her goal to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship,” their daughter said. “She was a connector of people, making sure good people were introduced to good people.”

Ms. Sher loved the vibrancy of city life.

“She knew more about where to eat, what play to see,” Balonick said. Even though she was ill, “She called me last week to remind me to be sure I got the special Krispy Kreme Halloween doughnuts for my kids.”

Her husband David died before her. In addition to her daughter and sister, she is survived by her son Adam, her mother Lucille Rosen and two grandchildren.

Ms. Sher’s funeral service is to be streamed online starting at 1 p.m. Tuesday at https://www.goldmanfuneralgroup.com/memorials/linda-sher/4416254/index.php.