January 31, 2008
Candidate profile: Ron Paul
Paul's call to end foreign aid draws small Jewish following
(Page 2 - Previous Page)"It's been clear throughout Ron Paul's tenure in Congress that his positions regarding Israel and the Middle East are significantly outside the mainstream of the Republican Party," Kurtz said. "We hold Paul's positions as both wrong for Israel and wrong for America. Because of these positions, Paul does not enjoy any support from the top leadership of the RJC."
Hadar Susskind, the Washington director for the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, said that his organization has had little interaction with Paul during his tenure in Congress, in part due to the fact that Paul has received very few committee appointments.
"Ron Paul is an interesting political figure. For good or for bad he takes public positions that are unpopular within his party," said Susskind, whose organization does not endorse candidates. "But he's not a member who we've had a tremendous amount of interaction with."
Perry, of Jews for Ron Paul, acknowledged that there's been a stigma attached to Paul's candidacy due to the right-wing extremist groups that support him.
"I'm supporting Ron Paul because he supports the Constitution," he said. "When the freedom message brings people together like this does, people start changing their views."
For Perry, an Orthodox Jew, there is a connection between his own religious beliefs about personal responsibility and the Libertarian philosophy underpinning Paul's candidacy.
"It's the idea that people are meant to be equal and free in a just society. Those are the same things that draw me to be an observant Orthodox Jew," said Perry, who commands an Internet forum whose advisers include political and law professors spanning the country. "I believe Judaism puts strong emphasis on individual meaning, personal responsibility," he said, adding that God "calls us to take responsibility for our own actions."
Perry said that his Internet forum is advised by political and law professors spanning the country. In addition to the 12-member board, the group has 48 members on its Facebook site and 80 members signed into its Yahoo account.
Perry often tells the story of one white supremacist that he's become friendly with at Ron Paul meet-ups.
"Here I am a kipah-wearing, fringes-hanging Orthodox Jew and he had a tattoo with the National Alliance. He starts to see me as a human being," Perry said. "I've met him seven times, and I've gotten him to drop the title of white supremacist. He's getting his tattoo covered up. I think that freedom message, when really taken seriously, brings us together. I would be very comfortable inviting him over for Shabbos dinner."
HaKohen, of Zionists for Ron Paul, acknowledged that Paul's followers include groups that might make Jews uncomfortable, but he sees the campaign as an effort to broadly redefine the American political landscape.
"I've never been excited in my life by an American politician. I never heard an American politician speak the language he's speaking. He's avoided nothing and answered honestly," he said. "That's why a lot of young people, liberals, college students, back him. I'm sure a lot of Arabs support him. If you have Zionists, Muslims and white supremacists supporting him, he's someone who really resonates with people."
HaKohen is a member of the Zionist Freedom Alliance, a student movement on 20 college campuses in America dedicated to Israeli nationalism. The group is socially liberal, but takes a hard-right stance on Israeli border issues.
Despite his enthusiasm, HaKohen is not getting his hopes up about the GOP candidate's chances.
"I can see how people might dismiss him," HaKohen said. "He's not gonna win."
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