Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the chairwoman of the Republican Conference in the U.S. House of Representatives, hosted, last week, a roundtable for Jewish leaders, bringing together Jewish Republican, Conservative, Reform, Liberal and Democrat figures, for a rare unprecedented dialogue. According to JTA, RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks, Sarah Stern, founder of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, Rabbi David Saperstein and Jack Moline were in attendance.
“In order to be an effective leader, you have to reach out to the whole community,” said Nicolas Muzin, the GOP conference's director of coalitions, who leads outreach to minority communities. Such GOP-Jewish confabs, while never commonplace, once were at least as frequent as the annual get-together between Senate Democrats and Jewish groups.
At the roundtable hosted by McMorris Rodgers, participants focused on shared agendas, in particular getting tough with Iran and keeping the deduction for charitable contributions at 35 percent, as opposed to the 28 percent sought by the Obama administration. But participants on both sides of the table said they anticipate areas of disagreement, like Medicaid and Medicare, two programs popular among Jewish leaders that Republicans hope to restructure. “On domestic policy there will be differences, and the members were well prepared for that,” Muzin said.
Saperstein, the head of the Reform movement's Religious Action Center, said the meeting suggested that the party was ready to listen. “They could not have been more attentive, more politely responsive at the range of views they heard, more open to engaging with the community,” he said.
McMorris Rodgers wrote down every suggestion. “It’s a renewed effort to regularize contact," she said. "Meetings like this are a great opportunity to exchange views and for the members to hear what the organizations are focused on, and for the organization to learn what the members are interested in."