Anna Kaplan, 57, the first Iranian-American elected to the New York State Senate

Originally published in NY Jewish Week

Anna Kaplan, born Anna Monahemi in Tabriz, Iran, is the first Iranian-American and the first Jewish refugee elected to the New York State Senate. Kaplan was selected as one of the New York Jewish Week’s 36 to Watch (formerly 36 Under 36). This distinction honors leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers who are making a difference in New York’s Jewish community. As a child, her family sought political asylum in New York, eventually settling in Brooklyn. Kaplan lives in New York City.

For the full list of this year’s “36ers,” click here.

New York Jewish Week: Tell us about your political career so far.

Kaplan: I’m blessed to get to work on behalf of the people of my community and the 20 million residents of the State of New York. I ran for this office to make sure our public schools are well funded so that our kids can get a great education, to protect women’s rights to make choices about their own bodies, to protect our communities from gun violence, to combat the explosion of hatred, antisemitism and extremism, and to keep our communities affordable for our families. In my time in the Senate, I’ve delivered record funding for our public schools, I’ve passed landmark legislation to protect reproductive healthcare access, I wrote the law that criminalizes DIY ghost guns, I passed the long-stalled “Holocaust Education Bill” and a slew of others to address the proliferation of hatred and antisemitism, and I capped property taxes and delivered real relief for struggling families in our community.

In one sentence, what was your best experience as a Jewish New Yorker?

Being welcomed into the care of the Crown Heights Lubavitch community as a 13-year-old refugee with no family.

What’s your favorite place in New York to take an out-of-town guest?

The Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan.

What is your favorite place to eat Jewish food in New York?

Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen (tongue sandwich, please!).

Who is your New York Jewish hero?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg.