Wednesday, May 6, 2015
By: Leisah Woldoff
The Arizona chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition has relaunched under new leadership.
The Washington, D.C.-based political group initially started a local chapter in 2005 but it has been on hiatus since last year. Now, it is rebuilding under new leadership with Lisa Karlovsky as chapter chair and former Arizona state legislator Barbara Leff as vice-chair.
On March 31, about 40 people gathered to hear Alex Siegel, RJC’s national grass-roots director, speak about moving forward with the chapter. Then in late April, Karlovksy and more than a dozen others from the Valley attended the RJC Spring Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas.
According to Karlovsky, main points addressed at the Vegas meeting included the relationship between Israel and the United States under the Obama administration and how to repair it, and the increasing anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses.
A major relaunch event for the Arizona chapter is being planned for October, Karlovsky said, with guest speakers in key Republican leadership roles both on national and local levels.
“RJC chapters are the lifeblood of the organization and are critical in getting our message out at the local level by hosting educational events, making sure there is a Jewish voice at Republican events, a Republican voice at Jewish events, recruiting new members, and being a conduit between the Jewish community and Republican candidates and elected officials,” Siegel told Jewish News via email. “During election years, there are activism and advocacy opportunities like door-to-door canvassing and phone-banking for our members to take part in.”
The previous chapter, under Amy Laff, was a “very active and well-respected chapter” that held about eight events per year, according to Siegel. Distinguished speakers and featured guests at events included state and federal elected officials, foreign policy experts, and key Republican pundits and thought leaders. “Our members were and still are very involved in local Jewish community events and with the state GOP,” Siegel noted.
Karlovsky said that RJC has three main focuses. First,“we fully embrace a pro-Israel foreign policy and we recognize that Israel obviously has a right to defend herself,” she said. “And that [Israel is] the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Second is strong national security. “As American Jews, we need to have a strong military – not necessarily a strong presence abroad, but just a strong military to be able to defend ourselves since we are the natural allies to Israel and vice versa.”
The third is an economic policy that supports an effective, efficient and less wasteful government. “Essentially, a smaller government,” she said.
“I feel like we have an opportunity now to share this amazing organization, this coalition with like-minded Jews who will support Israel, who really care about smaller government and fiscal responsibly as well as our national security.”
As far as social issues – such as abortion, gay rights, gun control, global warming and others – “the RJC membership and board of directors are as divided as the rest of America on these issues,” according to the RJC website, rjchq.org.
“The RJC is on the rise and we continue to close the partisan gap,” Siegel wrote. “A new Gallup poll shows a continuing shift in the political affiliation among American Jews, with more and more of this voting bloc leaning Republican. The RJC is proud of this shift and it is indicative of the educational and advocacy work we have executed in communities across the country over the last 25 years. We plan on continuing this trend in 2016.”