Aaron Keyak made headlines in the Jewish world last week when he was named Jewish engagement director for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. It isn’t the first time the political consultant and publicist has signed on to a Democratic presidential campaign. The Washington communications firm he co-founded, Bluelight Strategies, previously worked for both Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign in initiatives aimed at getting out the Jewish vote. Now Keyak’s aim is doing the same for Biden.
Keyak, 35, spoke with WJW on the message he and the campaign is working to convey to Jewish voters.
You’ve been called the “Orthodox political wunderkind” in the media. How do you feel about that title?
[Laughing] Well, one of those terms is absolutely accurate. I am Modern Orthodox. I go to Kesher Israel in Georgetown. I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as a wunderkind, but I appreciate the compliment.
Why did you want to take on this new role?
If, God forbid, Trump wins re-election, I want to be able to wake up the next day, look at my three-year-old daughter and look myself in the mirror and know that I did everything I possibly could to help prevent a second term of Donald Trump’s. And I talked to a few folks on the campaign, people close to Biden, and we thought this was the best way to do it.
Why should Jews vote for Biden?
The truth is that Joe Biden’s message to the Jewish community is also central to his message to all Americans. He has talked about how he made the final decision to run for president and he did so in the aftermath of Charlottesville. We all remember
watching neo-Nazis and racists and anti-Semites march with Tiki torches chanting “Jews will not replace us.” That was scary enough, but anti-Semites and racists are nothing new in American or human history, unfortunately.
What made me feel unsafe as a Jew for the first time in my life in this country is how the most powerful person on earth, the president of the United States, responded to that Jew-hatred. When he said there were very fine people on both sides, that was a gut punch. That emboldened the white supremacists and the anti-Semites. And Donald Trump couldn’t even do the bare minimum of condemning such hate and incitement. Well, Nazis, anti-Semites are not very fine people. And Joe Biden has the moral clarity and decency to call them out for what they are.
What does the Biden campaign see as the biggest priorities for the Jewish community in the United States?
The biggest priority for the Jewish community is the biggest priority for all voters, which is to have a competent, scientific and medically based approach to COVID. There are some issues the Jewish community particularly cares about, but in a time of crisis like this, we’re all just trying to get along and stay healthy.
How does the Biden campaign plan to sway Jewish voters who typically vote Republican?
Look, we’ve seen a number of leading Republicans who are actively campaigning against Trump. People who I thought I would never share a candidate with. Our general consensus is we’re going to return to normalcy and decency. Donald Trump is not a conservative. Donald Trump is all about Donald Trump. And I think true conservative Republicans see that. I get that there are some Jewish Americans who are going to vote for Trump. And that’s their call. But for anyone who’s still questioning if he’s the right person to lead us, I think we have a strong message for them.
What message does the Biden campaign want to convey in regard to Israel?
[Biden] believes passionately in the Zionist dream and famously has had personal relationships with every Israeli prime minister since Golda Meir. He’s also going to be a strong supporter of the two-state solution and to get us back on a path to peace. And fundamentally, for us to be a good ally to any country, including Israel,
we have to be a leader on the international stage because a stronger America is going to lead to a more valuable ally. And Joe Biden will be able to repair a lot of the damage that Donald Trump [has done].
How does the Biden campaign plan to show they’re serious about combating rising anti-Semitism in the United States?
Joe Biden’s been outspoken against anti-Semitism. Combating anti-Semitism shouldn’t be a partisan issue. And he’s spoken out on anti-Semitism, whether it was from the left or from the right. And again, just speaking clearly about the dangers and evils of anti-Semitism and quickly and clearly condemning it would be an improvement over what we have now. He knows that this sort of hate is not just bad for Jews in America, it’s bad for all Americans.