In a turnout so large that it seemed to take even its organizers by surprise, about 275 enthusiastic supporters came to the launch of the central New Jersey chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
The Oct. 3 event at the Excelsior in Manalapan featured Jennifer Rubin, the Washington-based chief blogger and contributing editor for Commentary magazine; Scott Sipprelle, who is challenging Rep. Rush Holt in a hotly contested race in District 12; and Anna Little, who is challenging Rep. Frank Pallone in District Six.
Greg Menken, the New York regional director of the coalition, said with the addition of the central NJ chapter, the RJC had grown to 30,000 members in 46 chapters.
The central NJ chapter encompasses Middlesex, Monmouth, Mercer, Ocean, parts of Somerset, and southern Union counties.
“This is by far the largest kick-off launch I’ve been to anywhere in the country,” Menken said to cheers. “We want to get everyone active in the political process. Tonight is all about getting ready for [the presidential election] in 2012.”
Claire Rosenthal, a Middlesex County committeewoman from East Brunswick, opened the evening with a few humorous jibes at the traditional Jewish allegiance to the Democratic Party.
“I can’t tell you how many people have come over and said, “I thought I was all alone,’” she said. “It seems like the Middle Ages where Jews had to pray silently…. We are literally a minority within a minority.”
Those attending said Republican policies were more in tune with their own thinking and more supportive of Israel.
Karen Klein of East Windsor said support for the GOP “was absolutely necessary for the continued security of Israel and the continuation of democracy.”
Israeli native Aliza Margulis of Westfield said she felt “it was important that we have a voice.” Pointing to her cell phone, she said she was providing updates to a weekly radio show on Israel’s Channel 2 for Israelis living abroad.
“I told them Republicans were the only friends Israel has,” she said. “From this cell phone it has gone all over the world what has happened here.”
In her remarks, Rubin said the Obama administration’s Mideast peace plan and failure to take stronger action in response to Iran’s nuclear ambitions have placed Israel in a precarious security position.
She contended that President Obama misrepresented himself as a Zionist during the campaign because he knew it was virtually impossible for an American politician to get elected without having a pro-Israel position.
“How Barack Obama ran and how he has governed are quite different,” she said, causing a “rising tide of concern in the Jewish community.”
Sipprelle’s supporters hope to make inroads among Jewish voters by highlighting Holt’s support of the left-leaning Israel advocacy group J Street and his signature on a letter urging Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza in order to allow in more humanitarian aid.