WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jews who vote for Democrats place the party before their religion, the father of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz said.
“Unfortunately, in the Northeast, the Jews are Democrats first and Jews second,” Rafael Cruz said at an event over the weekend held by the Palm Beach County, Florida, Tea Party first reported by Talking Points Memo. “This is what has happened to a great many in the Catholic Church. They are Democrats first and Catholics second.”
American Jews tend 2-1 to favor Democrats in elections. Ted Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, is a candidate in a large field of Republicans running for the party’s presidential nod.
The elder Cruz, who his son cites as a major influence, was born in Cuba and is an adamant opponent of its Communist regime. Rafael Cruz, who is a pastor, says religious leaders have an obligation to speak out against government oppression, and blames European Christian leaders in part for not standing up for Jews during the Holocaust era.
In his South Florida talk, he said that Jews and Catholics tend to vote more from reflex than from consideration of the issues.
“We need to put principle above tradition,” he said. “There are people voting Democrat because ‘my father or grandfather voted Democrat.’ ”
An official in the Cruz campaign did not return a request for comment. Rafael Cruz is not an official part of the campaign, although the Palm Beach Tea Party touted his appearance as the senator’s father.
The National Jewish Democratic Council condemned Rafael Cruz.
“Jewish Democrats are not Democrats despite being Jewish – we are Democrats because we are Jewish, because of our Jewish values,” the NJDC said in a statement.
The group said that if Cruz disagrees with his father “he should let us know, but to question our religion, our faith or our identity because of our political views is remarkably offensive.”
Cruz is not the first Republican to suggest that Jewish Democrats devalue their religion. U.S. Rep. Steve King, an Iowa conservative, came under fire from the NJDC earlier this year for making similar remarks.