By E.J. Kessler

Published April 22, 2005, issue of April 22, 2005.
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Congressional Campaign: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is looking to the Jewish community to help it regain control of Congress, tapping Rep. Steve Israel of New York to head up an outreach effort.

The campaign is designed to ensure that the House Democratic Caucus “is being aggressive in our message and our appeal to American Jewish voters,” Israel told the Forward in an interview last week at the Capitol. “I believe that we’re stronger than Republicans when it comes to the value of education for our children, and I believe that it is indisputable that we are superior to the Republicans when it comes to protecting constitutional rights.”

Politicians will go into communities to raise money for pro-Israel House Democrats — both incumbents and challengers.

“Since the Republicans consistently outspend us on electing their incumbents, we’re going to need to ratchet it up for ours,” Israel said. He listed three criteria the committee will look for in candidates: “strong on Israel, strongly against the religious-right extremists who are taking down the wall separating religion and state, and strong on other values that have always been historically important to the Jewish community, like funding education.”

“The fundamental goal here is [to] take back the House,” Israel said, “and a Democratic-controlled House would be a much better deal for the American Jewish community on a broad range of issues than what we have now.”

The effort is being spearheaded by DCCC chairman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, but Israel said other Jewish House Democrats would be invited to join soon. “We’re not UJA yet,” Israel joked.

Israel, who calls himself a “Scoop Jackson Democrat,” said his choice for the role is “evidence of a Democratic leadership that fully understands and supports a strong message on national security.”

“We’re beginning to form a very energized nucleus of Democrats who want to articulate and pursue a visionary national security policy that recognizes that we have enemies in the world and we need to find them, pursue them, capture them and kill them,” he said. “I can’t think of a single Democrat who wakes up in the morning or a single Republican who wakes up in the morning saying, ‘I hope America is weaker today.’ The problem is, the Republicans, when they wake up, for some reason when they look at themselves in the bathroom mirror, they articulate a much more compelling sound bite than the Democrats have been able to do. But we’re changing that.”

* * *

Flaying Frist: Jewish communal agencies lined up to excoriate Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist for announcing that he would participate in “Justice Sunday,” an April 24 event staged by Christian conservative groups claiming that opponents of President Bush’s judicial nominees are seeking “to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms.”

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said he was “deeply troubled” by Frist’s decision to participate, adding, “Whatever one’s views may be on this or any other issue, playing the religious card is as unacceptable as playing the race card.”

Phyllis Snyder, president of the National Council of Jewish Women, sent Frist a letter urging him to reconsider, saying the group was “appalled” because “to attack those with a different judicial philosophy and policy viewpoint as religious opponents is the worst form of intolerance and demagoguery.”

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism called the theme of the rally “disingenuous, dangerous and demagogic.”

The American Jewish Congress did not fault Frist, but complained that recently some political and religious leaders have “crossed [a] line” with rhetoric threatening impeachment of judges for “high crimes and misdemeanors for nothing more than rendering decisions rejecting their own points of view.”

The NCJW and RAC oppose some of Bush’s nominees.

The Orthodox Union’s Washington representative, Nathan Diament, said it was “appropriate” for Frist to address the event, because “I don’t think these groups have said anything beyond the pale.”

* * *

Fulani Fracas: The American Jewish Congress is demanding that New York political leaders sever ties with Lenora Fulani and her Independence Party after Fulani defended anti-Jewish remarks she made in 1995.

The party, originally an offshoot of Ross Perot’s Reform Party, is New York’s third-largest, and politicians from both major parties have sought its endorsement. Mayor Michael Bloomberg won some 59,000 votes on the party’s ballot line in 2001.

Fulani and fellow party leader Fred Newman were co-founders of the New Alliance Party, described by the ADL and others as a Marxist cult. They dissolved it and joined the Independence Party in 1994.

Fulani said in 1995 that Jews “had to sell their souls to acquire Israel and are required to do the dirtiest work of capitalism — to function as mass murderers of people of color — in order to keep it.” Asked about these comments in a recent television interview, she said, “I’m not an antisemite. And that quote, in my opinion, isn’t antisemitic. It’s raising issues that I think need to be explored.”

Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, co-president of AJCongress New York region, urged that Fulani and Newman “be thrown out of the party and not given a home, especially one where mainstream public leaders like Sen. Charles Schumer, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer or Mayor Michael Bloomberg lend them any bit of credibility.”

The chances of politicians heeding the call and distancing themselves from the Independence Party? “Not likely,” said political strategist Hank Sheinkopf.

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