LAS VEGAS (JTA) — For Republican Jews looking for an alternative to Donald Trump in 2024’s presidential race, Ted Cruz presented a tantalizing choice on Saturday — at least for a few minutes.
“When I arrived in the Senate 10 years ago, I set a goal to be the leading defender of Israel in the United States,” the Texas senator said during his chance to address the Republican Jewish Coalition conference last weekend.
The crowd packed into a ballroom deep in the gold lame reaches of the Venetian casino complex lapped it up in what some of them refer to as the “kosher cattle call,” auditions for some of the GOP’s biggest campaign donors.
Cruz applied his folksy bellow to phrases already rendered stale by the speakers who preceded him, making them seem fresh. “Nancy Pelosi is out of a job,” he said of the Democratic speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, eliciting more cheers from a crowd relishing a fragile majority in the House, one of few GOP wins during midterm elections earlier this month.
But the onetime constitutional lawyer lost the crowd when he asked everyone to take out their cell phones and text a number associated with his podcast, “Verdict.” As the murmurs graduated into grumbles it became clear: About a third of the 800 or so people in the room were Shabbat-observant Jews, taking texting off the table for them.
Cruz never really recovered his rapport with the audience, which included deep-pocketed donors looking to pick a candidate and rally support for him or her. That made his speech an extreme example of the trajectory of just about every address by prospective presidential hopefuls at the RJC conference — excitement tempered by two nagging questions: Does this candidate have what it takes to beat Trump, whose obsession with litigating the 2020 election helped fuel this year’s electoral losses? And is Trump inevitable whoever challenges him?
The former president was at the center of every presentation and of conversations in the corridors during breaks. On the stage, some folks named him, some did not, but — except for Trump himself during a video address from his Florida home — few did so enthusiastically.
Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor who was the first of Trump’s primary opponents in 2016 to drop out and endorse him, and then among the first to repudiate him during his presidency, repeated the admonition he made a year ago to move beyond Trump.
Say his name, Christie urged the crowd. “It is time to stop whispering,” he said. “It is time to stop doing the knowing nod, the ‘we can’t talk.’ It’s time to stop being afraid of any one person. It is time to stand up for the principles and the beliefs that we have founded this party on, this country on.” He got big cheers.
Trump was the first candidate to announce for 2024, last week, and so far the only one. But others among the half dozen or so likelys in Las Vegas were clearly signaling a run. Nikki Haley, the former ambassador to the United Nations who is a star among right-wing pro-Israel groups for her successes at the United Nations in marginalizing the Palestinians, all but told the group she was ready.
“A lot of people have asked if I’m going to run for president,” Haley said. “Now that the midterms are over I’ll look at it in a serious way and I’ll have more to say soon.”
The biggest cheers were reserved for Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor who was a bright spot for Republicans on Nov. 8, winning reelection in a landslide. DeSantis listed his pro-Israel bona fides (boycotting Israel boycotters) and his culture wars (taking on Disney after the company protested his “Parents Rights in Education” bill, known among its critics as “Don’t Say Gay”).
The crowd loved it. “The state of Florida is where woke goes to die!” he said to ecstatic cheers.
DeSantis did not once mention Trump; the former president has already targeted him saying whatever success he has he owes to Trump’s endorsement of his 2018 gubernatorial bid and dubbing him “Ron DeSanctimonious.’
Getting the nickname was a clear sign that DeSantis was a formidable opponent, said Fred Zeidman, an RJC board member who has yet to endorse a candidate. “It’s a badge of honor, in that Trump has identified you as a legitimate contender for the presidency,” he said in an interview.
Yet even DeSantis was not a clear Trump successor. The RJC usually heads into campaign-year conferences with a clear idea of which of its board members back which candidates, and then relays the word to Jewish Republicans whom to contact to join a prospective campaign.
That didn’t happen this year, and Trump was the reason. Jewish Republicans are still “shopping” for candidates, Ari Fleischer, the former George W. Bush administration spokesman who is an RJC board member and who also has not endorsed a candidate, said in a gaggle with reporters.
Trump was the elephant in the RJC room, Fleischer said, using the Hebrew word for the animal.
“Donald Trump is the pil in the room. There’s no question about it,” Fleischer said right after Trump spoke. “And he is a former president. He has tremendous strength and you could hear it and feel it with this group, particularly on policy, particularly on the substantive issues that he was able to accomplish in the Middle East. It resonates with many people.”
Trump had earned cheers during his speech as he reviewed the hard-right turn his administration took on Israel policy, moving the embassy to Jerusalem and quitting the Iran nuclear deal, among other measures.
“There are other people, they’re going to look at his style and look at things he’s said, and question if he is too hot to handle,” Fleischer continued.
Trump in his talk at first stuck to a forward-looking script but toward the end of it could not resist repeating his lies about winning the 2020 election. Asked by RJC chairman Norm Coleman how he would expand the Abraham Accords, the normalization agreements he brokered between Israel and four Arab countries, should he be reelected, Trump instead bemoaned the election.
“Well, we had a very disgraceful election,” he said. “We got many millions of votes more than we had in 2016, as you all know, and the result was a disgrace in my opinion, absolute sham and a disgrace.”
It was one of many only-in-Vegas moments at an event that brings together disparate groups, including young secular Jews from university campuses gawking at the glitter, Orthodox Jews lurking at elevators waiting for someone else to push the button so they can get to their rooms, and Christian politicos and their staffers encountering an intensely Jewish environment for the first time.
“Shabbat starts on Friday night and ends on Saturday night,” one young staffer explained to another as they contemplated a “Shabbat Toilet” sign taped to a urinal. “But doesn’t it flush automatically anyway?” asked the other.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, another presumed 2020 hopeful, was the only speaker to decry violent attacks on Jews.
“When I think about my brothers and sisters in the Jewish community, in New York City being attacked on the streets of New York, it is time to rise up on behalf of those citizens,” he said. “Rise up against those folks spreading antisemitism, hate and racism.” He was also the only speaker to praise a Democrat, Nevada Sen. Jacky Rosen, with whom he has launched an African-American Jewish coalition in the Senate.
A couple of contenders who have separated themselves from Trump said his name out loud — but with disdain.
“Trump was saying that we’d be winning so much we’d get tired of winning,” said Larry Hogan, who is ending a second term as the governor of a Democratic state, Maryland, with high ratings. “Well, I’m sick and tired of our party losing. This election last week, I’m even more sick and tired than I was before. This is the third election in a row that we lost and should have won. I say three strikes and you’re out.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence peppered his speech with fond references to Trump and his refusal to heed experienced personnel who counseled an even-handed Middle East policy, a move that Pence and the RJC both believe paid off.
Yet Pence also appeared to condemn Trump’s boldest rejection of norms, his effort to overturn his 2020 loss, which spurred an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in which Pence’s life was threatened. “The American people must know that our party keeps our oath to the Constitution even when political expediency may suggest that we do otherwise,” Pence said.
One contradiction for those in attendance was the longing for Trump’s combativeness while wanting to shuck themselves of Trump’s baggage.
Typical was Alan Kruglak, a Maryland security systems contractor who said he appreciated the pro-business measures Hogan had introduced in his state but was more interested in a fighter like DeSantis.
“Trump did great things, but I think Trump’s past his time, we need younger blood that is less controversial,” said Kruglak, 68. “Trump needs to hand the baton to somebody younger, and who doesn’t have any baggage associated with them but has the same message of being independent.”
The problem is that insiders said Trump still commands the loyalty of about 30% of the party, and that could be insurmountable in a crowded primary.
Trump, Fleischer said, was inevitable as a finalist but he didn’t have to be inevitable as the nominee.
“If there’s five, six, seven real conservative outsider candidates, Donald Trump will win with a plurality because nobody else will come close,” he said. “If there’s only one or two, it’s a fair fight.”
Who would those one or two be? Fleischer would not say. Among the Republican Jews gathered in Las Vegas, no one would.
The post For the Republican Jews whose Vegas confab kicked off the 2024 primary, Trump was always present appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.