WASHINGTON (Sep. 21)
Jewish Republican leaders from 27 states enthusiastically voiced all-out support for President Ford’s retention of the Presidency in their two meetings here yesterday to plan strategy in their efforts to help him win the election and hear from him his views on issues of Jewish interest and concern.
Originally about 100 leaders from 20 states and the District of Columbia were invited to the meeting but, as New York industrialist George Klein, a national coordinator of the effort with emphasis on the New York area explained it, “we had so many calls from people who wanted to come that we had to expand the number.”
Accordingly, about 125 leaders met in the afternoon for two hours with Ford campaign chairman James Baker and other strategists at the Statler Hilton Hotel where they received kits crammed with Ford’s speeches and other material related to Israel, Soviet Jewry, the Arab boycott and domestic matters to help them with their own speeches and campaign tactics.
Then, with about a score of other Jewish leaders who are not in a position to endorse any candidate swelling their number, they visited with Ford for about 90 minutes in the East Room of the White House, a half hour more than scheduled. Neither session was open to the press but those present spoke freely about them afterwards.
PREDICTS LARGE JEWISH VOTE FOR FORD
While the visitors streamed from the White House, Detroit industrialist Max Fisher, who is spearheading the Jewish Republican movement, said, “The Administration has made it clear that it wants the Jewish vote and will do everything possible to get it.” The President, he said, “put it on the table–a sort of State of the Union speech to make his position clear. He supports Israel all the way and with all his power.”
A reporter asked Fisher how he thought the Jewish vote would go on Nov. 2. “It will be better than in 1972,” he responded. “Ford is a man of integrity and he will get well over 40 percent.”
Responding to other questions, Fisher said “The Jewish vote is very important.” A shift of 10 percent of the Jewish vote in states like California, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio and Illinois, Fisher added, “can be two or three percent of the number that will determine the margin.” He thought the President’s chances today were “50-50” and “there will be no question” of his victory after his debate with his Democratic rival Jimmy Carter. “The election will turn on integrity.” he predicted.
Klein pointed out that “three target area” in this campaign are youth, the Catholic vote and the Jewish vote. The Republicans present yesterday, Klein pointed out, were from all branches of Judaism and represented a “large cross section of American Jewry.
AMONG THOSE PRESENT
Among those present, who were described by organizers of the meeting as being in no position to endorse any candidate, were Rabbis Israel Miller and Arthur Hertzberg.
Fisher said that Sam Rothberg of Peoria, Ill. telephoned him from Israel to say that he is completely for the President. Two of former California Gov. Ronald Reagan’s chief Jewish supporters. Theodore Cummings and Albert Spiegel of Los Angeles, were present. Among others attending, according to a list made available to the reporters, were Gordon Zachs, of Columbus, Ohio; Jacques Torczyner, Gustave Levy, Maxwell Rabb of New York; Jay Pritzer, of Chicago, Joseph and Lynn Meyerhoff, of Baltimore; Moses Feuerstein, of Boston; Melvin Dubinsky of St. Louis and Robert Hecht of Houston.
Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R.NY), who attended the White House session, said that those present had “a profound interest in Israel and comparable causes.” He said the President’s explanation of his policies “is very helpful and very constructive.”
The dean of the Jewish members of Congress added, “I believe the President’s policy respecting Israel is very constructive and a statesmanlike policy for our country. The President fully intends to pursue it and I am satisfied that is the way to go.”
L. William Seidman, Assistant to the President for Economic Affairs, said “I never saw a Jewish group so enthusiastic about a Republican.” Seidman, who is Jewish, but said he is not a member of any Jewish organization, said that Ford was interrupted by applause no less than 15 times in a 10-minute period of his speech.
Those interviewed after the meeting said that there was no mention of the Palestine Liberation Organization or Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger. Neither, they said, was there discussion of the President’s “reassessment” of his Middle East policy last year after Kissinger’s first Sinai efforts failed and 76 Senators wrote to the President on Israel’s behalf for foreign aid.
FORD’S RECORD SUMMARIZED
David Lissy, associate coordinator of the White House Domestic Council who helped arrange the meeting, summarized the President’s remarks for reporters. He said the President recalled his address to the Rabbinical Council on U.S.-Israeli relations and his “excellent personal rapport” with Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin with whom Ford said he has met seven times in two years.
The record is clear that U.S. military and economic assistance to Israel is “for a good cause,” Lissy quoted Ford as saying. “We should not brag about it, but it is indicative of the action this Administration has taken where Israel’s need is great.” Ford added that he is committed to the “security and safety of Israel.”
Lissy said that on Soviet emigration, the President said “I pledge to you I will make every effort with Congress and the Soviets to get broader opportunity for Jews to leave for Israel and the United States. We will not capitulate– and we will be tall and strong in supporting Israel’s position in the United Nations,” Lissy said the President told his audience.
Ford said the Arab boycott of Israel is a difficult problem. The Treasury Department, he said, tried to get legislation that would carry out the intent of opposing the boycott and yet not be punitive with regard to American business. It is the President’s understanding, Lissy said, that the final language in the Tax Reform Bill now on his desk allowed the intent to be carried out without punitive impact.
Lissy reported Hertzberg as having said that while he was “debarred from taking a partisan position” in the election, he had told Ford that as one who had frequently met with the President he found that the chief executive “always had an open door” and was always open for “an easy and friendly dialogue,” and was “impressed with your (Ford’s) candor.” Lissy further quoted Hertzberg as saying: “We have not always agreed but you have taken time to explain the problems and I always left persuaded your heart was on our side.”
White House press secretary Ron Nessen said that Ford’s visit with the Jewish leaders was along the lines of his meetings with leaders of other ethnic groups.