By Sarah Wapner
Straus Center Impact and Recruitment Officer
Born and raised in Teaneck, New Jersey, Straus Scholar Allie Orgen has always had a keen interest in politics and policy. In high school, she was heavily involved in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and volunteered for U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-New Jersey). Now at Stern College for Women, Orgen is continuing to make an impact as a Straus Scholar, pursuing a degree in political science with a focus on U.S. foreign policy and involving herself in a variety of extracurricular activities.
On campus, Orgen is a vice president of the Yeshiva University Political Action Club, where she plans events with federal, state and local politicians. Ms. Orgen also currently serves as a campus ambassador for AIPAC, a role that combines her interests in American politics, foreign affairs and the U.S.-Israel relationship. She credits her involvement in AIPAC for enabling her growth as a leader in this realm. “My involvement in AIPAC nurtured my love for other Jewish causes,” she says. “In the spring of 2021, during the most recent flare-up of Hamas violence in Israel, I organized the Bergen County Unite for Israel Parade (from the Old City in Jerusalem!) in response to rising antisemitism. The parade drew more than 5,000 people, and I was so happy the community was able to pull it together because it was very needed.”
In addition to her lobbying efforts, Orgen pursues politics in the academic sphere. She serves on the board of the J. Dunner Political Science Society, where she coordinates events and facilitates networking opportunities for her fellow political science students. In addition to her political interests, she is a junior staffer for the Yeshiva University National Model United Nations, working on the Middle East Summit committee.
Off campus, Orgen continues to expand her political horizons, taking on new experiences and responsibilities. She spent the past three months interning for Jack Ciattarelli’s gubernatorial campaign in New Jersey, knocking on doors to get out the vote and coordinating volunteers and local campaign events. “I felt that Jack Ciattarelli believed in New Jersey, and his platform resonated with me,” she explained. “I was also impressed with Ciattarelli’s commitment to Israel, something that is unusual at the state level but incredibly important to voters like me.”
Orgen is also passionate about education policy and works extensively with Teach NJ, a nonprofit organization advocating for equitable government funding for New Jersey’s nonpublic schools. “We are living in hyperpartisan times. Teach NJ is a nonpartisan organization that looks beyond divisiveness towards a common goal. School choice is very important to me, and my work with Teach NJ renews my faith in politics.” She actively recruits Teach NJ volunteers and assists with voter registration drives. “It’s been an incredible experience bringing more young, politically minded students into the policy arena.”
When asked to reflect on her political involvement, first in high school and now in college as a Straus Scholar, Orgen points to her Jewish identity as a decisive factor. “For me, it has always been an incredible privilege to be involved in politics,” she noted. “The fact that in America, as a Jew, I have the ability to not only vote but to lobby and take an active role in my government and even work for elected officials is the biggest privilege and an even bigger responsibility. I aim to continue to bring Jewish values into my leadership.”
Orgen also draws inspiration from her Straus courses at the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought. In her Jews of Early America course (taught by Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, Straus Center Director), she learned about Jonas Phillips, a Jewish veteran of the American Revolutionary War and an American merchant. “Phillips wanted to be a delegate at the Constitutional Convention, but as a Jew, the religious oath restricted his participation,” she explained. “Phillips petitioned to remove the oath, and he laid a framework for American Jews to take an active role in the endeavors of American society. Similarly, the Straus Scholars Program has nurtured my love of both American and Jewish history and enabled me to bridge my passion for Torah and American politics. I look forward to what lies ahead!”
To learn more about the Straus Scholars Program, including our fall 2022 application, click here.