The White House.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Over the course of the last decade, Jewish Democrats working to mobilize support in the halls of Washington became victims of their own success.
Organizations tasked with expanding Jewish support for the party and with promoting the Democratic line among Jews across the US appeared less relevant under President Barack Obama, who enjoyed significant Jewish support.
Matters of Israel policy were a topic of controversy throughout his presidency, but were not, at the end of the day, a top voter issue among American Jews. Most supported Obama anyway, and his party even more so.
Jewish Democratic groups felt they had reached something of a political ceiling, and as if their fights were largely won, with broad community support for the party baked in to critical constituencies.
Those days are over – and their fights are back on with a sense of urgency, according to one new organization that has risen from the ashes of past incarnations.
The now-defunct National Jewish Democratic Council, whose leadership campaigned for Hillary Clinton under the banner of Jews for Progress, will bring the band back together to lead the new Jewish Democratic Council for America. The group was set for launch in October, but a white power rally in Virginia that shook America on August 12 forced their hand.
“It’s not just a Jewish community concern, but the community has such a highly sensitized experience with racism,” said Ron Klein, acting chairman of the board for the new group and a former member of Congress. “We can’t sit on our laurels – nothing lasts forever.
And what’s scary to a lot of people is that Donald Trump has given face and cover to a lot of these looming threats.”
Klein will chair the 16-member board in October for its first meeting in Washington, where the group will identify its chief concerns and priorities. But the rise of neo-Nazism in the America is sure to top the list.
“While we planned to wait until then to issue any public statements, President Trump’s outrageous handling of the tragic events in Charlottesville compelled us to speak out now,” the organization said in its inaugural press release.
“His unprecedented rhetoric and hesitance to unequivocally and universally condemn neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and racists empower and embolden these groups.
“The deafening silence of some members of Congress and Trump’s cabinet contribute to the dangerously toxic environment that Trump has created,” it continued. “By refusing to speak out against Trump’s failing and pitifully equivocating responses to Charlottesville, they abdicate their constitutional and moral obligation to our country and its citizens.”
The Jewish Democratic Council for America hopes to remind Jews why they tend to vote Democratic in the first place – in order to protect the pluralistic values on which the US is built, and which have allowed Jewish Americans to thrive and prosper. But the Republican Jewish Coalition – which itself called for “clarity” from Trump in the aftermath of Charlottesville – is already pushing back against that narrative, slamming the founding of JDCA in an email to supporters.
“The JDCA is replacing two more failed liberal Jewish political groups – the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) and the Jews for Progress PAC,” the Republican Jewish Coalition wrote.
“Democrats used to be able to take the Jewish vote for granted, but as a result of our effective outreach and significant accomplishments, we’ve forced Democrats to use additional resources on this once reliable voting bloc.”
“It might be hard for the Left to swallow, but a new organization won’t change the continued erosion of support for Israel within the Democrat Party,” the Republican Jewish Coalition added.
Klein characterized the RJC email as “pitiful,” and said that Jewish Democrats were simply adapting to a new paradigm in American politics.