Jewish Democrats aim to solidify base

Former congressman Ron Klein is the acting chairman of the Jewish Democratic Council of America. Wikipedia

A group of Jewish Democrats, organizing to support party candidates for public office and planning to launch in October, made an early debut in the wake of President Donald Trump’s handling of the deadly white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12.

“To the horror of many of us, then candidate Trump pandered to these groups during the campaign and eagerly accepted their political support,” the group, the Jewish Democratic Council of America, wrote on its website. “Now, as President, his unprecedented rhetoric and hesitance to unequivocally and universally condemn neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and racists empower and embolden these groups.”

The group will serve as a resource for Democratic candidates seeking political office, said Ron Klein, JDCA acting chairman and a former congressman from Florida. And it will have a large online presence, including social media, in a move to reach young people.

The nonprofit organization is aimed at organizing Jewish support for Democrats, unifying the party, advocating a strong United States-Israel relationship and speaking out against anti-Semitism and other forms of hate, according to its website.

Liberal Jewish organizations like Bend the Arc and J Street already share many of the JDCA’s goals, and both have PACs that give almost exclusively to Democratic candidates. But the need for an organization like JDCA exists because no other groups target only Jewish Democrats, according to Matt Dorf, a longtime Democratic strategist and president of the West End Strategy Team.

“There needs to be an organization that is representing Jews and the [Democratic] party,” he said. “Bend the Arc and J Street don’t wake up in the morning thinking about the Democratic Party and Jews.”

JDCA board member and Potomac resident Barbara Goldberg Goldman said the group will be proactive. It was not formed as a response to Trump’s election.

Another Jewish Democratic organization, the National Jewish Democratic Council, exists solely as a legal entity said Goldman, who was a board member of that group.

Dede Feinberg, a JDCA member from Bethesda, said she has not joined a political organization before, but felt she needed to do after Trump was elected.

“When I looked at the impact that this administration could have, it became very obvious to me that I needed to stand up,” she said.

Feinberg said she learned at a JFNA meeting that if the proposed American Health Care Act of 2017 passed Congress, the social service arm of the Jewish community would lose 40 to 50 percent of its federal funding.

“The federation system cannot make up this amount of money with a campaign,” Feinberg said. “It would be devastating to us.”

Dorf, of the West End Strategy Team, said the need for an organization that is geared toward Jewish Democrats would have existed no matter who had won the election last year. But with Trump in the White House, the need is magnified.

Said Dorf, “Bigotry and racism and anti-Semitism that were sparked by Trump increased the urgency for activism, especially for the Jewish community.”

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