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Revealed: Who the big Jewish donors are backing in the 2024 GOP presidential primaries

Donald Trump may be the front-runner to secure the Republican presidential nomination, but that doesn’t mean he’s got a monopoly on all the Jewish megadonors

This article originally appeared on Haaretz, and was reprinted here with permission. Sign up here to get Haaretz’s free Daily Brief newsletter delivered to your inbox.

WASHINGTON – The fact that Donald Trump is the clear front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination is not necessarily reflected by where the party’s most significant Jewish supporters are donating their money.

A detailed review of super PAC and campaign donations, as well as public rhetoric and invitations for private fundraisers, paints a much more complicated picture that captures the uncharted waters in which the GOP currently finds itself.

While a notable number of pro-Trump donors will clearly back the former president no matter what as he faces a series of indictments, Jewish donors appear divided on who represents the best alternative to the former president, with several hedging bets by donating to several candidates.

The majority of America’s Jewish voters have historically always leaned Democratic, particularly as Trump’s influence has trickled down the rival party.

Republicans like to suggest that the 2022 midterms signaled shifting trends in the Jewish vote towards the GOP, optimistically claiming 33 percent of Jewish voters backed Republicans. Other polls showed only 25 percent support for the GOP; in 2020, Joe Biden won 77 percent of the Jewish vote. Recent polling shows that Orthodox Jews widely defy the rest of the Jewish voting bloc by favoring Trump over Biden in a prospective 2024 race.

Jewish Republicans have traditionally played an outsize role in GOP politics. Local Jewish community leaders (including board members of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which regards itself as they key bridge between Jewish Republicans and GOP decision-makers) have often been among candidates’ most significant supporters, while high profile Jewish megadonors have often, and still hold, the power of kingmaker.

Haaretz examines where major Jewish donors are placing their bets in the race for the Republican nomination.

Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump on July 8, 2023. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Trump’s Make America Great Again Inc. super PAC has received a number of significant donations, many from donors who hold deep personal connections to the former president.

The most significant of these was a $1 million donation in June from Charles Kushner, the father of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and one of the last people to receive a pardon during Trump’s last days in office. However, his was not the only significant donation from a figure deeply involved in Jewish life and philanthropy.

Alex Adjmi, a prominent leader in the Syrian-Jewish community and real estate executive, donated $100,000. He too was among the 143 last-minute pardons by Trump, after being convicted of money laundering on behalf of Colombia’s Cali Cartel. Adjmi’s brother, Harry, also donated $50,000.

Adjmi’s pardon petition was supported by Haim Chera, CEO of New York’s Vornado real estate investment trust company and son of the late Stanley Chera – arguably Trump’s closest friend in the Jewish community. Haim Chera, as well as his mother Frieda, each donated $50,000 to the pro-Trump super PAC.

California-based private equity investor Saul Fox, who was recently at the center of a story concerning Israeli antiquities being stranded at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, made donations amounting to over $150,000. Real estate investor Eloise Gerson, the former chair of the Chicago Republican Party, also donated $109,420.

Meridian Capital Group CEO Ralph Herzka, an Orthodox Brooklyn native who prides himself on philanthropy to Jewish identity and outreach projects, donated $25,000 to the super PAC.

Other Republican Jewish Coalition board members have also made notable donations to Trump’s campaign, including former U.S. ambassador to Iceland and current Nevada Senate candidate Jeffrey Gunter; New York real estate developer and former RJC board chair George Klein; lobbyist Jeff Miller, who is best known for being a confidant of GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy; and Los Angeles Country Republican Party chair Richard Sherman.

Lee Zeldin, the former GOP congressman and failed New York gubernatorial contender, and another RJC board member, endorsed Trump earlier this year.

Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley speaking at the Christians United for Israel summit on July 17, 2023 in Arlington, Virginia.
Nikki Haley speaking at the Christians United for Israel summit on July 17, 2023 in Arlington, Virginia. Photo by Getty Images

The Republican candidate most popular with RJC board members is actually former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. She has received donations from at least eight RJC board members, depicting how her popularity within the GOP Jewish sphere far exceeds her national electoral viability.

Among those donating to her campaign are New Jersey branding agency executive and former RJC national chair Cheryl Halpern; Florida-based George W. Bush ally Sheldon “Shelly” B. Kamins; founder of the CAMERA pro-Israel media watchdog Josh Katzen, who is based in Massachusetts; and New York-based litigator Eric Levine.

Other notable RJC board members backing Haley include Lee Samson, a longtime donor to the Orthodox Jewish community and who previously held a Trump fundraiser at his Beverly Hills home; major Michigan Republicans such as venture capitalist Bobby Schostak and former Michigan Republican Party chair Ron Weiser; and Fred Zeidman, a Texas-based investment banker tapped by George W. Bush to chair the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.

Their donations pale in comparison, however, to the $5 million given to Haley’s Stand for America super PAC by WhatsApp creator Jan Koum, who is based in California. The Kyiv-born billionaire’s family foundation has quietly but actively increased its giving to Jewish and Israel-related causes over the past several years, including to pro-settlement organizations and, most notably, $2 million to AIPAC’s United Democracy Project super PAC last year.

Other notable Jewish donations to Haley’s super PAC include $230,000 from New York’s Elizabeth “Betsy” Stern (the widow of Hudson Institute chairman emeritus Walter Stern); nearly $150,000 contributions from Minnesota auto supply magnate Elliott Badzin; and $236,400 from New York billionaire real estate executive Leonard Stern and his wife Allison Maher Stern.

Haley also received notable support from Aryeh Bourkoff, CEO of Wall Street investment giant LionTree. Bourkoff, who produced a documentary on Libyan Jews and has philanthropic ties to Chabad and the UJA-Federation of New York (among others), donated more than $33,000 to various Haley-related funds. This is particularly notable given his record as a Democratic donor and longtime fundraiser for Kamala Harris.

Interestingly, Haley’s super PAC received a $25,000 donation from Mexican-American billionaire and Kind snack food CEO Daniel Lubetzky, who co-founded the OneVoice Movement aimed at amplifying Israeli and Palestinian voices looking to end the regional conflict.

A fellow donor on the other end of the political spectrum to Lubetzky is businessman Roger Hertog, chairman emeritus of the conservative Tikvah Fund think tank that has been deeply involved in Israel’s judicial overhaul. He donated $3,300 to Haley’s Stand for America and $3,300 to Nikki Haley for President Inc. Jay Lefkowitz, a Tikvah Fund board member and New York-based litigator who previously served in the Bush administration, has donated $26,600 to Haley-related funds.

Ron DeSantis

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a synagogue in Florida. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Haley’s groundswell of support comes after she was one of the most warmly received Republicans at last year’s RJC confab in Las Vegas, only rivaled by then-top contender Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

This was reflected early on by significant donations to his Never Back Down super PAC, including $2.6 million from GOP megadonor Jeffrey Yass, who until recently was believed to be deeply involved in bankrolling the think tank behind Israel’s judicial overhaul.

DeSantis enjoyed support from the Jewish establishment, notably garnering donations from Florida-based RJC board members like former Bal Harbour Mayor Gabriel Groisman; insurance lawyer Fred Karlinsky; the aforementioned Haley donor Lee Samson; and Mel Sembler, the former U.S. ambassador to Italy and Australia.

Before his campaign began to flounder in recent months, DeSantis also tapped GOP donors in northeastern America via fundraisers hosted by Jewish and pro-Israel donors like United Hatzalah co-founder Mark Gerson, former U.S. ambassador to Brazil and the Netherlands Clifford Sobel and venture capitalist Seth Gribetz.

Since the nosedive, DeSantis has increasingly relied on major donors to stop the bleeding as he fights to establish himself as the main challenger to Trump.

This includes $1 million donations from Saul Fox, the aforementioned antiquities megadonor, and Colorado-based David Millstone, CEO of a privately held global industries business.

Millstone is a major donor to the Tikvah Fund and recently received an award from them alongside a scientist who previously suggested that the rise of feminism is to blame for sexual harassment and rape. Hertog, for his part, donated $25,000 to the DeSantis super PAC.

Other significant donations to the super PAC include a $256,650 gift from Texas-based real estate developer Ira Mitzner – who is deeply involved with Yeshiva University, Israel Bonds and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum.

DeSantis also received notable donations from Republican-Jewish Florida-based donors, including more than $100,000 from Barbara Feingold, a Florida philanthropist who co-chaired the delegation accompanying DeSantis to Israel in 2019. He also received $150,000 from three members of the Ezratti family, who are behind one of America’s leading housebuilders and major players in the Jewish Federation of Broward County.

Chris Christie

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talks to supporters at a town-hall-style event at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, in Manchester, New Hampshire, June 6, 2023. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images) Image by

Other candidates have been attempting to fill the void following DeSantis’ downward spiral. One of them, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, is largely benefiting from his very public animus toward Trump.

Christie, who famously sent Charles Kushner to prison after prosecuting him for tax evasion, witness tampering and making illegal campaign donations, has been a sworn enemy of both the father and his son, Jared Kushner. This, however, does not extend to Jared’s uncle, Murray Kushner, who previously sued Charles Kushner over a real estate dispute.

While Murray Kushner’s $10,000 to the pro-Christie Tell It Like It Is super PAC may be the most salacious donation, it is not the most noteworthy in quantity or significance.

After his initial donation to DeSantis, Yass has since given $250,000 to Christie’s super PAC. Other notable donations from billionaires include $250,000 each from Florida-based hedge fund manager Bruce Kovner, Carolina Panthers owner and hedge fund manager David Tepper and New York-based investor Stanley Druckenmiller.

Tim Scott

 Rep. Tim Scott has co-authored bills supporting Israel and combatting antisemitism. (Getty)
Rep. Tim Scott has co-authored bills supporting Israel and combatting antisemitism. (Getty) Image by

Druckenmiller and Yass are not placing all their chips on Christie. They are also dedicating significant support to South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who has made significant inroads in recent weeks.

Yass donated $600,000 to a pro-Scott super PAC Opportunity Matters Fund over the last several months, while Druckenmiller donated $150,000 to the same super PAC.

This comes amid a major pro-Scott fundraiser in New York last week, co-hosted by Druckenmiller alongside Trump’s former economic adviser Gary Cohn (who is often the target of antisemitic dog whistles from the GOP’s far right).

Other hosts included private equity CEO and new UJA-Federation of New York board chair Marc Rowan and metals magnate Andy Sabin, who is now supporting Scott after jumping ship from both Trump and DeSantis. Other major Jewish political donors – including billionaire Henry Kravis and former Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman – hosted Scott for Wall Street fundraisers earlier this summer.

Another highly influential megadonor, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, reportedly met with Scott recently. Lauder previously supported Trump and backed DeSantis’ gubernatorial run, though is reportedly souring on the Florida governor along with his fellow GOP megadonors.

RJC board members who have already backed Scott include the McCarthy confidant Jeff Miller and Blackstone senior managing director Wayne Berman.

Asked for comment, RJC National Political Director Sam Markstein said: “We are excited about the quality and caliber of the 2024 GOP candidates, and we are looking forward to the first primary debate next week; RJC will work hard to support the Republican Party nominee to beat Biden and get our country back on the right track.”

Who’s next?

Tim Scott’s most important historical patron is Larry Ellison, the former CEO of Oracle and prosecution witness in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ongoing corruption trial.

Ellison had fueled Scott’s super PAC with $35 million over the past three years. Yet while he has yet to donate to Scott’s presidential campaign, he is widely expected to: Puck’s Teddy Schleifer reported last week that the tech mogul will give an eight-figure donation to Scott, which may be the single biggest check of the entire 2024 race.

Three of the most significant Jewish GOP megadonors – Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, billionaire libertarian hedge fund manager Paul Singer, and Miriam Adelson (who was Trump’s top financial backer in 2020) – have yet to publicly determine which, if any, candidate they will support. Adelson reportedly told leading GOP presidential contenders that she intends to stay neutral during the primary process.

As of June 30, Trump had more cash on hand than any other presidential candidate, with $22.5 million – besting Scott’s $21.1 million, President Joe Biden’s $20.1 million and DeSantis’ $12.2 million.

Recent disclosures, however, revealed that Trump’s political machine has been dedicating significant resources to paying off his legal fees.

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