WASHINGTON — With Donald Trump in the White House, Jewish Democrats are more energized than ever to mobilize politically. That was the message Wednesday night at a launch event for the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA).
“Abraham Lincoln famously said our government was designed to be ‘of the people, by the people, [and] for the people,’ well, we now have a president who wants to make it ‘of one family, by one family, and for one family of enormously elite status,’” said freshmen Rep. Jamie Raskin, to thunderous applause. “We can’t let that happen — and we won’t let that happen.”
The event was attended by scores of high-profile members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California; Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin; Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine; Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy; Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown; Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer; Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz; and others.
Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer also attended and stressed the importance of maintaining bipartisan support for Israel — something he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were accused of risking with their strident opposition to the Iran nuclear deal.
Dermer orchestrated then speaker of the House John Boehner’s backdoor invitation to Netanyahu to address Congress in March 2015, a speech in which he lambasted then president Barack Obama’s attempts to broker an accord with Tehran.
More than 20 elected Democratic leaders spoke on Tuesday night to a crowd of more than 250 people at a Capitol Hill hotel.
Several Jewish members of Congress, including Cardin, who is the ranking member of the powerful Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, cited their family history to explicate the threat they believe is posed by Trump.
“My grandparents had the courage to leave Europe to find a better life for their children,” Cardin said. “They came here because of the values of this country: a country that embraces diversity, a country that embraced opportunities for all. And now their grandson serves in the United States Senate. This is truly a great country. Those values are being challenged today.”
Without explicitly mentioning Trump’s travel ban, Cardin suggested it was an affront to Jewish values and emphasized that his was the party fighting its implementation in Washington.
“The imposition of having religious tests for who can come to America is not being challenged by the Republican Party, but it is being challenged by the Democratic Party,” he said.
JDCA is largely a reincarnation of the National Jewish Democratic Council and the Jews for Progress PAC. It will be run by many of the same people involved in those two outfits.
Former Florida congressman Ron Klein will chair the organization, while its board will consist of Marc Stanley, Michael Adler, Barbara Goldberg Goldman, Israel “Izzy” Klein and other NJDC alums.
The day-to-day operations will be run by veteran DC insiders Steve Rabinowitz and Aaron Keyak of Bluelight Strategies, a consulting firm that specializes in representing Jewish organizations and Democratic interest groups.
Originally supposed to launch in October, the organization’s leadership decided to jump ahead with announcing its formation in August after a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent and Trump failed to unequivocally denounce the white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Klansmen who marched in protest of that city’s plans to remove a confederate statue.
“While we planned to wait until [October] to issue any public statements,” the group said at the time, “President Trump’s outrageous handling of the tragic events in Charlottesville compelled us to speak out now.”
JDCA says it will work to “actively promote Democratic officeholders and candidates, national and local legislative policies consistent with the Jewish community’s values, as well as a strong US-Israel relationship.”