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Trump hosts 150 Orthodox leaders, delivers Israel speech at golf course dinner

Trump frequently complains about a lack of support among Jewish Americans but is popular among the Orthodox

This post was updated on 07-11.

Former President Donald Trump hosted Orthodox leaders at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf course Monday evening for a speech about Israel. It comes as the 2024 presidential race heats up, and amid tension between the Israeli government and the Biden administration.  

The dinner for about 150 people was organized by the Israel Heritage Foundation, an Orthodox Israel advocacy group launched last year. The foundation evolved out of a group formed in 1974 by Holocaust survivors to train chaplaincies and named Ayshel Avraham. Among the leaders are Farley Weiss and Dr. Joe Frager, the past president and vice president of the National Council of Young Israel’s board of directors. 

Rabbi David Katz, the organization’s executive director, said that as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the group does not endorse any political candidate and the event, held at the Trump National Golf Club for security reasons, is not supporting Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign. “The event is about the past, not about the future,” and a way to thank Trump, Katz said. 

He said the group feels Trump has earned his place in history for his steadfast support for Israel, his administration’s efforts to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and for recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. “This is our expression of gratitude,” he said.

Following a prayer for “our dear president,” Trump was handed a silver Torah crown. It read: “Give thanks to Hashem for He is Good, for His Kindness endures forever. Presented to President Donald J. Trump — for his extraordinary and heroic efforts to help the State of Israel and the Jewish People. He and his family should be blessed eternally.”

Trump read out aloud the proclamation, according to a video clip published online.

“Let me put it this way,” Trump told the crowd after the award presentation, “If we don’t win, Israel is in big trouble. I mean it.”

Orthodox Jews tend to vote Republican in national elections. While Trump received between 21% and 30% of the overall Jewish vote in the 2020 presidential election, he was supported by 72% of Orthodox voters, according to a Republican Jewish Coalition survey.

A recent poll conducted by the Jewish Electoral Institute showed that 76% of Orthodox voters would vote again for Trump in 2024 if he is the Republican nominee, and 88% disapprove of President Joe Biden. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who are among numerous candidates challenging Trump in the GOP primary, are also popular among Orthodox Republicans. Last year, an influential Hasidic leader from New York, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, assailed the Trumpism that has overtaken much of the Orthodox community. 

Since his defeat, Trump has complained about the lack of support among Jewish Americans but boasted about his popularity among the Orthodox. He addressed several Orthodox groups in the past year.

Trump’s Monday gathering to Orthodox leaders comes almost two weeks after DeSantis addressed Orthodox donors in Rockland County, New York, where he boasted of his own pro-Israel bona fides and made the unsubstantiated claim that the Biden administration wants to reverse the U.S. embassy’s move to Jerusalem. 

Katz said that the organization has already extended invitations to other Republican candidates for similar events, as well as to Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Reps. Josh Gottheimer of  New Jersey and Ritchie Torres of New York.

Recent guests included former Vice President Mike Pence; former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; and Kari Lake, the defeated GOP Arizona gubernatorial nominee who was initially rumored to be on the list of Trump’s 2024 running mates. 

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