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Jewish Democrats Set Up Group to Serve As Link with the Party

Jewish Democrats, long reluctant to have a specifically Jewish caucus within the Democratic Party, have decided to establish a permanent organization to ensure that the party continues to advocate issues of Jewish concern.

Called the Jewish Democratic Study Group, the new organization is an outgrowth of the National Jewish Leadership Council, which was organized in 1988 to support Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis’ unsuccessful campaign for president.

The study group is headed by Morton Mandel of Cleveland, a former president of the Council of Jewish Federations who also headed the 1988 campaign group. It includes many of the same Jewish leaders who were active in the Dukakis campaign.

This follows the pattern set by Republican Jews, whose National Jewish Coalition emerged from a group formed to support Ronald Reagan’s presidential election campaign in 1980.

But the new Democratic group will be completely independent of the Democratic Party, so it will be free to criticize the Democratic National Committee, its chairman or any other Democrat, said Hyman Bookbinder, who is the Washington consultant for the study group.

Jewish voters have bucked the national trend in the last three elections and continued to support the Democratic candidate for president in overwhelming numbers.

“Jews can no longer take the Democratic Party for granted, and the Democratic Party can no longer take Jews for granted,” said Bookbinder, former Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee.

In a statement announcing its formation, the study group said that there is “need for an active Jewish leadership presence to assure the continuation of the traditional, overwhelming preference that Jewish voters have shown for Democratic candidates, and to assure the kind of Democratic policies and candidates that merit such support.”

Bookbinder said the Democrats have traditionally supported issues important to Jews and have provided the bulk of American political support for Israel.

But he said there is need to ensure that the party does not make such mistakes as failing to include resolutions condemning anti-Semitism in the party platform, as it did during the 1984 and 1988 party conventions.

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