Jewish Immigration Advocates Push Eric Cantor To Support Broad Reforms

Top GOP Jew Skips Hometown Event in Richmond

Grandson of Immigrants: Eric Cantor, the GOP House Majority Leader, has yet to take a stand on immigration.
Getty Images
Grandson of Immigrants: Eric Cantor, the GOP House Majority Leader, has yet to take a stand on immigration.

By Nathan Guttman

Published February 21, 2014, issue of February 28, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The organized Jewish community is known for its impressive bipartisan clout when advocating issues relating to Israel. But when it comes to domestic affairs, the community suffers from a lopsided lack of leverage on the Republican side.

Some Jewish activists believe that they may have found a pathway to the GOP side of the aisle. Their tactic: play the Jewish card on the sole Jewish Republican in Congress, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. In a communal event held in Cantor’s hometown of Richmond, Va., on February 16, a group of pro-immigration Jewish activists, including past donors to Cantor’s campaigns, tried to send the No. 2 Republican in the House a message that immigration reform, shelved by his own party, is a Jewish issue he ought to be taking on.

“It was a strategic choice,” said Abby Levine, director of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, which organized the event. “We strategically chose Richmond because of the importance of Eric Cantor.”

Cantor could be a key person for immigration reform. House Speaker John Boehner made clear that the issue is off the table for this legislative year, and Cantor, who has avoided expressing his views on the details of the Senate bipartisan immigration bill, is viewed by some, including those of the Jewish community that largely supports reform, as the only senior Republican open to change on the issue. But past experience has shown that Cantor, despite his close ties with Jewish leadership, has not been receptive to the community’s domestic agenda.

Gathered at the Richmond Jewish Community Center on a snowy Sunday afternoon, some 70 members of the city’s Jewish community listened to immigration stories that recalled to the audience the role immigration played in American Jewish history. The presentation stressed immigration reform as an issue in line with core Jewish values.

Jay Ipson, wearing a cowboy hat decorated with a menorah symbol, spoke of his family immigration from Lithuania after the Holocaust and of the tragedy of closing immigration gates during the war; Janet Slipow Meyers, whose parents came from Russia in the early 20th century, told her story, and Roben Farzad, a successful Bloomberg writer who came with his family from Iran after the Islamic Revolution, represented the younger generation of Jewish immigrants to America. Joining them was Felipe Marroquin, a non-Jewish resident of Richmond. Marroquin burst into tears while sharing with the audience the story of his wife of 20 years, who was deported to Guatemala.

While not discussing the issue directly at the event, organizers have highlighted in their publications another Richmond Jewish immigration story: that of the family of the city’s most politically powerful son, Cantor. His grandparents fled anti-Semitism in Russia to arrive in America and start a new life in Virginia’s capital. “I am the grandson of immigrants, and as such my life has been blessed with both the strong religious faith and hard-working, entrepreneurial ethic that so many immigrants bring to America,” Cantor wrote in the 2010 book “Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders,” which he co-wrote with fellow Republican Reps. Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy.

Organizers said Cantor was invited to attend the event but did not respond.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.