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At the Republican Party Convention: Jewish Republicans, Lonely No More

August 22, 1984
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It may be hard to be a Jew, as the old Yiddish saying exhorts, but for years it has been hard to be a Jewish Republican, or at least lonely.

“We are not lonely any more,” Richard Fox of Philadelphia, chairman of the National Jewish Coalition, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency yesterday at a reception that the group, which is organized to help re-elect President Reagan and Vice President George Bush, gave for Bush.

Fox and other long-time Jewish Republicans with whom the JTA spoke, believe that Reagan can increase the 40 percent of the Jewish vote he received in 1980. As a sign of growing Jewish support for the Republicans, the number of Jewish delegates and alternates total 104 out of the 4,470 alternates and delegates or 2.3 percent, according to official Republican figures. In previous years there were never more than 40.

The National Jewish Coalition said that as a sign of the growing Jewish participation in the Republican Party, it expects to be extremely active in the upcoming campaign. Fox said the Coalition will have seven fully staffed offices in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Illinois and California, and will have a state chairman in 20 states.

Bush praised the coalition leaders yesterday for making the Administration aware of the views of the Jewish community and then taking the Administration’s views back to the community. Stressing the Administration’s strong support for Israel, Bush noted that this position came from the President’s “heart.”


Max Fisher, of Detroit, who has been active in Republican campaigns since 1960, said a “revolution” has occurred in Jewish participation in the GOP. He said he believes the major reason is that Jews have become more conservative and are troubled by such issues as quotas and the recent signs of anti-Semitism expressed by Rev. Jesse Jackson during the Democratic campaign for the Presidency.

Many Jewish Republicans seem to stress the Jackson campaign and the failure of the Democratic National Convention to adopt a plank condemning anti-Semitism as one of the reasons they expect increased Jewish support for Reagan this year.

George Klein of New York said he sees the growing number of Jewish Republicans as a sign of “maturity” and “political wisdom.” He explained that the Jewish community has begun to realize that if they only vote for Democrats they will be taken for granted.

Klein said that in addition, Jews “realize” that a strong America guarantees a strong Israel, and that a strong American economy guarantees the U.S. ability to provide economic assistance to Israel.

Another long-time Republican, Gordon Zachs of Columbus, Ohio, said Jewish Republicans are actually the natural state of things since most Jews were Republicans before 1932 and the election of Franklin Roosevelt. He said 50 years later, Jews feels more secure in the American society and have a feeling of affinity with the Republican philosophy on economic and social issues. He said the Republican Party is now making an effort to enlist Jews and Jews are more willing to be “pulled in.”


None of the Republicans felt that Reagan’s opposition to moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will hurt the Reagan campaign in the Jewish community. The Democratic Party platform calls for moving the Embassy and the party’s candidate, former Vice President Walter Mondale, is on record as saying he would order the move if elected.

But Fox called it “a false issue,” noting that when the Democrats were in office, they did not move the Embassy even though a call for the move was in the 1976 platform. Klein noted that most Jews want the Embassy move but they understand it is a “sensitive issue” and a “question of timing.”


The strong influence that evangelical Christians have had at the convention, particularly on the party’s conservative platform, did not seem to concern the Jewish leaders. Fox denied there really was any such influence, saying that the platform reflected the feeling on various issues of the delegates.

Fisher said that he is “always worried” about protecting the constitutional guarantees of separation of church and state. “But I don’t feel that it is an issue at this time,” he said.

Rabbi Seymour Siegel, executive director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, said he does not accept the proposition that if evangelicals get more influence that necessarily Jews and others get less. Klein stressed that for Jews to have more influence in the Republican Party and its platform, Jews should become more active in the party.

The real proof of whether Jews are going over to the Republican Party will of course come on Election Day, November 6. Zachs said he believes 1984 will see the “restructure of the allegiance” of American Jews that will continue into 1988 and beyond.

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