Donald Trump among those attending the Republican Jewish Coalition conference

The 2020 Jewish Republican Coalition conference was one of the last Jewish conferences to be canceled when the pandemic struck – the group had gone so far as to order a brand-name hand sanitizer.

Now, he’s one of the first to resume, and he’s doing so amid a host of relevant changes to the group’s agenda. There was the election of President Joe Biden last fall and the tumultuous transition when Donald Trump left the White House while still remaining an imminent figure in the Republican Party.

Then there was the January death of Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul who was a major funder of Republican and pro-Israel causes, whose Las Vegas properties have long hosted the RJC convention.

And then this week, there was a strong – and, for many, surprising – demonstration of Republican candidates across the country in local and state elections. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican businessman, scored a surprise victory in the Virginia gubernatorial race, and a Republican nearly toppled New Jersey’s Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.

“The record is definitely getting a pop now as a result,” Matt Brooks, executive director of RJC, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. He expected more than 700 people to attend, half the number in previous years, but unexpectedly high given the reluctance to travel while the coronavirus pandemic and some of its restrictions are still in place.

It’s not just the fact that Youngkin won, but how he won that puzzles Republicans: Youngkin adopted some of Trump’s policies and rhetoric, particularly related to education, but kept the former president at arm’s length, refusing to allow him to do so. campaign for him in the state. (Trump spoke by phone at two demonstrations.)

THEN US PRESIDENT Donald Trump winks at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a joint press conference at the White House in January. (credit: BRENDAN MCDERMID / REUTERS)

“I think you’ll see a lot of candidates look to Youngkin’s model, not just to avoid Trump, but to send messages that drive voters home,” Brooks said.

Many of those potential messengers are now seeking the 2024 presidential nomination, and many of them will be there, including, via video, Trump himself, who has had a sometimes uneasy relationship with the RJC.

Possible presidential contenders who will appear in person include Mike Pence, Trump’s vice president; Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations; Mike Pompeo, Trump’s secretary of state; Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Trump acolyte; former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the first 2016 candidate to drop out and endorse Trump; and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who tangled with Trump until the bitter end of 2016 before reconciling.

With the exceptions perhaps of DeSantis and Pompeo, each of these figures has had strained relations with Trump; Haley distanced herself from Trump after the January 6 uprising on Capitol Hill, only to try to roll back her dissent when Trump survived his second impeachment trial and maintained his grip on the party. Pence was loyal to Trump until he agreed to the former president’s pleas to revoke the results of the 2020 presidential election.

It’s no coincidence that the RJC has deep and straightforward relationships with old-school Republicans like Haley and Pence, who favor robust American internationalism. The group’s relationship with Trump, by contrast, is quite complicated: He effusively praised him for policies that aligned US policy with Israel’s right, including the recognition of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as Israeli territory and the withdrawal. of the agreement with Iran, but it was not resolved. his flirtations with the extreme right.

The group also remains a space for Trump skeptics; Representative Nancy Mace, a Republican from South Carolina who is a strong critic of Trump, will speak.

Brooks said the conference would offer a masterclass on how to win Congress back next year, following the example of Youngkin, who focused on parental anger at closed schools and the exaggerated and often false claims that schools were incorporating radical teachings about race into their curricula. .

“Americans worry about jobs, America’s weakness after Afghanistan, COVID, they want to participate in their children’s education,” he said. “Education is a critical hot topic in the Jewish community.”

The conference will take place as in recent years at the Venetian complex, part of the Adelson casino empire. His widow, Miri Adelson, is still deeply involved in political donations, and Brooks said he would speak at a tribute to Sheldon Adelson Saturday night.

“Adelson’s legacy is one of the most important in the history of the Jewish people,” he said. “Miri and Sheldon were a team and that will continue.”

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