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Donald Trump’s ascendency in this election cycle has been challenging for Republican Jews, many of whom have already spoken out about his candidacy. But one central organization has stayed curiously silent: the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC).
A series of prominent Republican Jews have gone on the record recently with their concerns about Trump. Bill Kristol, a Jewish neoconservative and editor of the Weekly Standard wrote that Trump is: “a wanton mocker of the meek” and a “charlatan and a demagogue” to boot. The Emergency Committee for Israel, a far-right pro-Israel organization, is running ads accusing Trump of “kissing up to dictators.”
Some Jewish Republicans have also raised concerns about Trump’s statements on Israel. Ari Flesicher, a former Bush speechwriter (who said that he would vote for Trump over Clinton), said that Trump has “given a lot of people reason to pause and question whether he is a supporter of Israel.”
In addition to their quibbles with Trump’s foreign policy, the JTA reported that Jewish Republicans are distressed with his ties to notorious anti-Semites:
A Jewish Republican operative who spoke on condition of anonymity said more than one Republican would secretly cast a vote for Clinton should Trump secure the nomination.
“We would prefer we have mainstream candidates who don’t devolve into demagoguery, ethnocentrism and racism,” said the operative, referring to Trump’s recent equivocation over the [Former KKK Grandwizard David] Duke endorsement.
Trump’s xenophobia isn’t limited to his hesitation to disavow David Duke. In December, Trump’s call to ban Muslim immigration was out of step with the overwhelming majority of American Jews, and was accordingly condemned by just about every major Jewish organization in the country (the Zionist Organization of America and Republican Jewish Coalition were exceptions). The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a historically central organization in American Jewish life that was founded to help Jewish refugees fleeing pogroms in Russia, organized a letter signed by over 1200 rabbis from all streams of Judaism to demonstrate the vast Jewish support for active resettlement of refugees.
Between his views on Israel, Muslims, cozy relationship with white supremacists and alleged admiration for dictators around the world, there’s a lot at stake for Republican Jews this primary. I’d have hoped that the RJC — the “unique bridge between the Jewish community and Republican decision makers” — would have something to say about it.
The RJC refused to comment on Trump for major stories about his relationship to the Republican Jewish community in the Forward and the JTA. Luckily, today they have an important opportunity to weigh in. Tonight in Las Vegas, Matt Brooks, the director of the RJC, will have a public conversation with J Street’s President and founder Jeremy Ben-Ami. They’ll be discussing, among other things, what this election means for the American Jews. With 24 primaries behind us and Trump’s continuing dominance of the race, it’s time for the RJC to to let American Jews know whether they’ll be backing the Republican frontrunner should he secure the nomination.
Benjy Cannon is the 2015-2016 Mikva Fellow at J Street. He’s on Twitter at @benjycannon