US lawmakers endorse group to bridge gap between Democratic party, Jews

Senior Democratic leaders lamented the spike in antisemitism across the US and vowed to fight it as they new group was launched.

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November 9, 2017 15:41
2 minute read.
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Israel US flags. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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WASHINGTON – Senior Democratic leaders attended the launch on Thursday of a group meant to serve as a bridge between their party and the US’s Jewish community.

The Jewish Democratic Council of America will “actively promote to Democratic officeholders and candidates national and local legislative policies consistent with the Jewish community’s values, as well as a strong US-Israel relationship,” the group said in its launch statement.

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Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer attended the Capitol Hill reception, alongside Sens. Ben Cardin of Maryland, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

Representing the House side were: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Reps.

Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Eliot Engel, Nita Lowey, Grace Meng and Jerry Nadler of New York, among others.

Organizers of the event offered nearly the entire list of lawmakers the opportunity to speak, resulting in a long and steady stream of remarks on why American Jews are overwhelmingly Democrats, and why their Democratic proclivities have only been reinforced in the era of Donald Trump. Most speakers highlighted the commitment of Jews to tolerance and pluralism, to equal rights for all, and to the dignity of immigrants.

“Those values are being challenged today – and it’s the Democratic Party that is standing up for those values that I think are so important to the Jewish community and to this great nation,” said Cardin, who is Jewish.

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Several members referenced this summer’s neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which drew ire from American Jewish groups but a tepid response from the US president, who claimed that “very fine people” had attended the march.

It was the clearest and most frequent example used of a growing wave of antisemitism, nativism and xenophobia in the United States – and a need for Jewish political activism to return to its Democratic roots. Their fears appear borne out in data recently released by the Anti-Defamation League, which has identified a 182% increase in antisemitic incidents in the months that followed events in Charlottesville.

Dermer praised the founding of the group, noting that bipartisan support for the Jewish state is a “strategic asset.”

“You cannot fly a plane with one wing,” the ambassador said. “Israel thinks this is great, because it gives us another way to engage with the Democratic Party.”

The organization will be headed by Ron Klein, a former congressman from Florida, with daily operations run by Steve Rabinowitz and Aaron Keyak of Bluelight Strategies.

Fund-raising will be led by Fran Katz Watson and Lauren France of the Katz Watson Group.

“The Jewish community has always been about a better future,” Pelosi said, joking that more Democratic lawmakers were in the audience than typically attend her scheduled caucuses. “It is a given, part of our value system, that we support Israel – that’s not even a question... What the Jewish community has done domestically in the United States has made a tremendous, tremendous difference.”

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