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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish History Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    It’s hard to make a new contribution to the field of Holocaust studies,  but German historian Götz Aly accomplishes just that in Why the Germans, Why the Jews? His premise is that the origins of the Holocaust were rooted in the specific anti-Semitism found in Germany in the decades and centuries before World War II. Aly (who is not Jewish) seeks to prove his theory by studying only pre-Holocaust history, and tracing how the German people’s envy and hatred of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    JNS.org – During the current conflict in Gaza a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others—be it during Operation Protective Edge or at other times—have gone further than simply supporting the Palestinians by actively supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, making false accusations about the Jewish state, ignoring Israel’s position on the conflict, or justifying the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. Many of these [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    JNS.org – Days after winning his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight bout against Steven Siler on July 26, Israeli-born mixed martial arts competitor Noad Lahat boarded a plane for his native country, choosing to temporarily exit UFC’s octagonal cage to rejoin the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as a paratrooper for its operation against Hamas in Gaza. Except he didn’t actually consider it a choice. “When [our] home is in danger, there is no other way for us [but to serve [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.