Though he does not want to be “negative” regarding Hillary Clinton, New Jersey Jewish leader Mark Levenson, a registered Democrat, has thrown his support to Donald Trump.
Levenson, who attended the Republican National Convention, told NJ Jewish News, “I am supporting the Republican nominee. I will vote for Donald Trump. On social issues I have differences with the Republican Party, but Israel and security are my primary concerns.”
Levenson, a partner in the Newark law firm of Sills Cummis & Gross, was at the convention July 18-21 in Cleveland as “an honorary delegate.”
“I was not there in any official capacity,” he said — not as the current chair of the NJ-Israel Commission nor as the immediate past chair of the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations, he said.
Questioned about such seemingly anti-Semitic overtones to the Trump campaign as his tweet labelling Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton the “most corrupt candidate ever” behind a six-pointed star and stacks of cash, and the subtle Nazi reference in his “America First” sloganeering, Levenson acknowledged some discomfort. “Yes, I do have problems with some items that are out there,” he said. “I also have problems with what Bernie Sanders supporters have done throughout.”
He called author, journalist, and blogger Max Blumenthal, the son of Sidney Blumenthal, one of Clinton’s biggest supporters, “one of the most vile anti-Semitic, anti-Israel writers out there.”
Levenson said he “wished Trump were more assertive in responding to some of these [allegedly anti-Semitic and racist] items and that some of this garbage wasn’t floating around his campaign, but I firmly don’t believe he is anti-Semitic.”
Recognizing that Trump “is outspoken, and obviously some of the nature of his outspokenness is what helped propel him” to secure the nomination, Levenson acknowledged that “one may wish for some moderation, but that is for the campaign and him to decide. He is a very talented individual, but he is not without warts. No one is perfect,” he said.
While at the convention, Levenson divided his time between its sessions and meetings of the NJ delegation and the Republican Jewish Coalition.
As he sat with NJ delegates, he observed “some really angry people there who were very, very vitriolic” about Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) refusal to endorse Trump for president.
Despite Cruz’s exhorting his fellow Republicans to “vote your conscience,” Levenson said, he observed “pretty significant unity” in the hall. And, he added, “what surprised me was the level of minority speakers and female speakers…both African-American and Latino and women….”
“The issues that are paramount to me are Israel and other matters of Jewish concern, as well as our state’s social service concerns. That drives my participation,” Levenson told NJJN.
Among the events he participated in was an RJC salute to pro-Israel politicians, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Govs. Scott Walker (Wis.), Nikki Haley (SC), and Susana Martinez (NM). “The politicians all spoke to our issues,” he said.
He also attended an RJC foreign policy discussion featuring Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich of Georgia.
Even as Levenson acknowledged problems with Chris Christie’s low approval numbers in New Jersey, he said the governor “was in high demand all over the place…. He is certainly well-known and well-regarded.”
Levenson said he will not attend the Democratic National Convention because “I am not going in any official capacity and on matters relating to Israel and national security, the Republican Party bests represents my interests.”
But, he added, “I do not want to be negative on Hillary Clinton. She is a public servant who has accomplished a lot, but from where I sit I am much more comfortable with the election of Donald Trump and the Republican Party.”
Asked whether members of Jewish community in New Jersey should take exception to one of its leaders taking such a bold partisan position, Levenson demurred.
“It cannot be said that someone who might be viewed as a community leader can’t participate in something Republican or Democratic because he or she is now viewed as nonpartisan. That is silly and ridiculous,” he said.