WASHINGTON, June 25 (JTA) — Veteran Jewish activist Max Fisher had “great reservations” when the Republican congressional leadership asked him to accept their first-ever American Spirit Award. But after Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) assured Fisher that his presence as the honored guest at the annual House Senate Republican banquet was for the good of the party, the octogenarian agreed. The Grand Old Party was certainly feeling pretty good after Tuesday night’s $1,500-a-plate black-tie gala raised $7.9 million for its quest to maintain its majority in the Congress. Serenaded by the Temptations and feted by the party’s biggest personalities and supporters — including Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) — Fisher said he was “humbled” by the honor that Lott presented in the form of a statue of a soaring bald eagle. Dozens of Jewish Republicans beamed as Fisher, who used to joke that all the Jewish Republicans could fit in a phone booth, addressed the almost 4,000 activists gathered at the Washington Convention Center. “Anybody of any religion, any faith, in this country has the freedom and the ability to achieve by hard work,” said Fisher, whose immigrant parents came to the United States in the early 1900s. Now a Detroit-area businessman, Fisher is revered in the GOP not only as a big contributor but also as an adviser. Forgotten as the festivities continued was the invocation moments earlier that asked for everyone’s blessing in the “name of our lord, Jesus.” In a video tribute, taken in part from footage provided by the National Jewish Coalition, the Republican group founded by Fisher, Presidents Ford and Bush heaped praise on the man who most recently backed former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole. Other photos in the video showed former Presidents Reagan and Nixon huddled with Fisher in the Oval Office. Not known as a man who has time to rest, Fisher left the banquet to fly to Israel in time for the main sessions of the Jewish Agency assembly, in which he has played a pivotal role for decades.
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