Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Young Jewish Conservatives Make a Name for Themselves at CPAC

February 17, 2012 1:33 pm 2 comments

Back Row (L-R): Jake Moroshek, University of Minnesota; syndicated Conservative Radio Host Michael Medved; Jeremy Pollock, American University; President David Milstein, Dickinson College; Co-founder Yitzchok Tendler; Co-founder Ben Packer; George Copeland. Front Row (L-R): Zoelle Mallenbaum, Wellesley College; Marisa Belinfante, UCLA.

Recent polls from organizations such as the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press report a potentially significant shift in the party affiliation of Jewish voters.  Jews have traditionally been a dependable bastion of support for the Democratic Party, even if the polices of both the Republicans and the Democrats support Israel and posture themselves to ally with Jewish voters and donors. But the shift comes at a time when many view President Barack Obama and the Democrats’ support of Middle Eastern issues weaken when challenged with glaring inconsistencies between the party’s ideology and actions the State of Israel believes it must take to survive. Pew’s analysis shows Jewish voter affiliation with the Democratic Party fell from a 52-point advantage margin in 2008, to a 36-point margin in 2011. Still most Jewish voters either are Democratic supporters or lean toward Democrats, the sudden drop is rather significant. Although, it is hard to gauge whether Jewish attendance during last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference, hosted by the American Conservative Union, had increased; through the enterprising work of one significant new organization, the Jewish presence and future clout could not be overlooked.

Attending the annual CPAC, the largest gathering of conservatives in Washington D.C., was difficult for observant Jews in previous years since most of the conference falls on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest; a period from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday that is filled with ritual, prayer, celebration and relaxation. Observant Jews are forbidden to carry, use electricity, handle money, and work; rituals based on G-d’s commandment to remember the day he rested after the world’s creation, and the day Jews prepared to leave slavery in Egypt. This year, the organization known as Young Jewish Conservatives, with its members and supporters, significantly alleviated this conflict by organizing Shabbat services and events spanning the entire Shabbat period – free and open to all willing to join. The events were wildly successful.

YJC began around a year back when Yitzchok Tendler and Ben Packer, who met while studying in Israel, began organizing a student trip to Israel for young Jewish conservatives. Realizing that many Jewish voters, especially students, were looking for a new home for their political beliefs following what many members believe to be the President’s betrayal of Israel and ineptness handling Israel-Palestine issues; the seeds of a community waiting to be organized and aided in their activism appeared ready for unification.

“We knew that there was a group of college students that was not being aided by any organization,” said Packer. “Not only are they underserved but they should be a powerful part of the Jewish community, and they weren’t allowed to be part of that.”

They began forming connections: contacting students, activists, and organizations such as the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Leadership Institute, to assess people’s interest and assemble a core group of conservative Jewish students willing to go on a trip to Israel. David Milstein, a student at Dickinson College, came across an ad online that sparked his interest.

“To me personally, the trip was important because I’ve always wanted to go back to Israel – I first went when I was 14 with my family – ever since, I’ve been much more influenced by what was going on in the Middle East – how our current President has been treating Israel,” said Milstein. “And it was pure coincidence that I came upon this trip, through Facebook. I contacted a few friends wanting to know more about the group, and then I actually emailed Yitz and found that it was going to be a great opportunity.”

The trip was successful, with 28 politically active conservative students from 20 different campuses throughout the country and one U.S. service member, spending time meeting with Israeli politicians and visiting important sites. They formed a core group of student organizers led by Milstein, who became the student organization’s President. The group agreed to hold Shabbat services and meals in a hotel suite for CPAC attendees wanting to observe Shabbat at the conference.

YJC reached out to renowned political activist Jeff Ballabon and his family, asking them to help organize and chair the event. Ballabon proved to be instrumental; he reached out to Jack Brach of New York’s Brach’s Catering who was so excited about the event that he donated an abundance of food for all of the meals.

The reception to their event was overwhelming, even though it was organized in as little as three weeks. For services and dinner, the suite was packed to capacity with more than 70 Jewish students, organizers, candidate and notable Jewish conservative stars such as the nationally syndicated talk radio host Michael Medved, who said Kiddush. One by one, dinner attendees listened to appeals from candidates from around the country – Jewish and otherwise – hoping to receive the organization’s blessing for their campaigns. Andrew Breitbart, the notorious founder of the Big Journalism blog; David Brog, the Jewish President of Christians United for Israel; Texas Senatorial Candidate Ted Cruz; Leadership Institute Vice President Steve Sutton; and others too numerous to list. As in the best communities, there was no pretense among the attendees. College students and luminaries sat side by side at the table for 3 meals from Friday to Saturday. Members of the Media, pundits, activists, students – ranging from Reform to Hassidic Jews – all enjoying each other’s company and the wonderful Kosher feasts. All attendees were encouraged to speak as long as they agreed to take the shot of Vodka or Scotch traditional after saying a “L’Chaim,” a toast, including the candidates.

Award winning Journalist and Foundation for Defense of Democracies Fellow, Joel Mowbray, served as the Master of Ceremonies; UCLA student Marisa Belinfante and Rochelle Ballabon worked tirelessly serving the meals and making sure attendees were satisfied. Jeff Ballabon and conservative columnist and author Ben Shapiro, took turns leading the services. Most, like Medved, stayed for the entire time. Some like Grover Norquist, founder and President of Americans for Tax Reform, poked in shortly to chat.

The group’s successful debut gives them earned confidence for the future. They believe their efforts will lead to more Jewish voters accepting conservatism, knowing a community exists to welcome them and fight for their issues.

“If you have somebody who’s a conservative and is a member of a Jewish community – and obviously established Jewish communities are overwhelmingly liberal, certainly if they belong to a synagogue or temple where liberalism is preached from the pulpit – then they probably don’t feel very comfortable, said Tendler. “By creating this, we’re giving them the right to maintain a Jewish and conservative identity simultaneously without feeling guilty that they’re compromising.”

He continued, “They learn that Jewish tradition is not contrary to Conservatism but in many ways is a fulfillment of it.”

The student organizers found CPAC attendees overwhelmingly supportive, receiving positive acknowledgement when attendees saw the members’ T-shirts with YJC’s logo.

Milstein put YJC’s mission succinctly: “It’s to unify young Jews. It’s to support them on whatever campuses; their communities; to make them feel at home; to have a place to support the things they’re doing to defend Israel against anti-Semitism, which is sadly growing on campuses in the U.S.”

YJC is currently working to form affiliated groups on college campuses nationwide and are already planning future trips to Israel for young conservatives under the age of 30, with another trip scheduled for summer. With such a large turnout to their first CPAC event, they plan to continue as an annual event at CPAC in the coming years – in a larger room, with even more supporters expected to attend.

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features World Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Tour operators are calling attention to Jamaica’s little-known Jewish heritage by arranging visits to historic Jewish sites on the Caribbean island, including a cemetery where Jewish pirates are buried. A report in Travel and Leisure magazine describes the Hunts Bay Cemetery in Kingston, where there are seven tombstones engraved with Hebrew benedictions and skull and crossbones insignia. According to the report, centuries ago, Jewish pirates sailed the waters of Jamaica and settled in Port Royal. The town, once known as “the wickedest city in the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    JNS.org – Telling Israel’s story. It’s the specific title of a short film that Eyal Resh created last year. It’s also the theme behind the 27-year-old Israeli filmmaker’s broader body of work. The widely viewed “Telling Israel’s Story” film—directed by Resh for a gala event hosted by the Times of Israel online news outlet—seemingly begins as a promotional tourism video, but quickly evolves to offer a multilayered perspective. “I want to tell you a story about a special place for me,” a young woman whispers […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    JNS.org – The entrance to Jerusalem’s Sacher Park was transformed from April 25-27 by a fire-breathing robotic dragon, which flailed its arms and attempted to take flight. The robot, a signature feature at Jerusalem’s first-ever “Geek Picnic,” was one of more than 150 scientific amusements available for the public to experience. This particular dragon was designed by students from Moscow’s Art Industrial Institute in conjunction with the Flacon design factory, said Anatasia Shaminer, a student who helped facilitate the display. Children […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →