2/21/2020 8:50 a.m. Update: This article has been changed to clarify that the Montgomery County Republican Party was not affiliated with this event.
Recent anti-Semitic attacks have led the Jewish community to be hyperalert for hate and its sources in all forms. At a recent gathering of about 20 people organized by two Republican social groups, the main speaker and attendees said they see the Democratic Party as part of the problem.
On Feb. 13, the MCGOP Club and Montgomery County Young Republicans Club co-hosted their “Pizza and Politics” at Mamma Lucia in Olney. “Pizza and Politics” began in the summer of 2019 as a monthly social event and has evolved to include guest speakers. This month, the guest speaker was Alexandra Levine, treasurer of JEXIT, a nonprofit organization that encourages Jews to leave the Democratic Party.
JEXIT began in 2018 as a social media campaign “calling out” religious minorities to exit the Democratic Party because it “does not represent everybody,” Levine said.
Levine, a daughter of Auschwitz survivors, started the dinner with a brief history of JEXIT and shared her concerns for the U.S.
“We back any president who supports Israel,” said Levine.
Levine expressed concern about the rise of anti-Semitism. She cited her alma mater, NYU, hosting “apartheid events” as an example.
In an interview before the event, Jackie Sackstein, social media and events chair of the MCGOP Club, said she has seen a similar campus trend.
“As a young Jewish Republican, I have dealt with a lot of hate in my recent college years,” she said. On her college campus, someone drew a swastika on a dorm door’s poster of President Donald Trump. Another time, students protested in front of Jewish students davening on the High Holidays. When she was invited to a Chanukah party, “I was on the subway, and I, actually, I covered my ugly Chanukah sweater, because I was genuinely scared that someone would beat me up because I was Jewish.” Sackstein recalled waking up one day and seeing her own synagogue on a list of places that had received a bomb threat call.
Sackstein believes the right is doing more to educate Jews, while Democrats do not have her best interests at heart. “I identify more with the ‘live and let live’ ideology, which I think Republicans lean [toward],” she said.
She supports JEXIT and said the group does “amazing work in exposing the source of that anti-Semitism.”
“A lot of the hate I experienced on and off campus were from radical leftists who disguise their anti-Semitism under the guise of a pro-Palestinian stance.” Sackstein named Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) as an example. “A lot of people don’t realize Israel is the size of the state of New Jersey. The people claiming that land is Palestine are trying to take away the little space that is Jewish. It’s the one place Jews can go to from any country and express themselves and be openly Jewish. That earth of land is known as the Jewish state. That land already exists.”
After Levine spoke, different candidates for office talked to the audience about their campaigns. District 8 candidate Patricia Rogers, who is Jewish, emphasized religion in her speech as the value of the Republican Party.
“Republicanism is good for Judaism because we have traditional values, value education, and are pro-Israel,” Dwight Patel, board member of the Montgomery County Republican Club, told the JT.
Anil Chaudhry, a parent running for the education board in Montgomery, said it is hard to find a different point of view in Montgomery County, and that he feels local politicians do not care about his voice or concerns. “I am here to listen,” he said.
Chaudhry said every vote has to be earned, and he doesn’t believe Democrats have earned minority voters, including Jewish ones.
“The Jewish people and their allies need to stand together against hate,” said Sackstein, “and I truly believe that the Republican Party is a true friend to the Jewish people as well as the state of Israel.”
Not all attendees were convinced that being against Zionism means someone is anti-Semitic, however.
“I hope they’re separate. I hate to characterize people’s motives,” said Mark Uncapher, president of the Montgomery County Republicans Club.