Nearly two dozen local Jewish and non-Jewish supports of U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R) attended a small fundraiser for the senior senator from Pennsylvania at the private home of Iranian Jewish couple Makan Delrahim and Michelle Kahen Delrahim in Malibu on December 17th. Guests were personally welcomed at the door by Specter and enjoyed cocktails. Up for re-election in 2010, Specter who is also a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke briefly about a range of topics from the financial bailout for the U.S. automotive industry to dealing with the threat of Iran.
Our podcast program had a chance to chat briefly with Specter about how the new U.S. Congress and Obama Administration can best address the danger of Iran’s regime in 2009 and also with Delrahim about growing Iranian Jewish political activism in Southern California. Our program can be heard:
Specter who is also Jewish, said he was preparing for another trip to the Middle East to meet with officials in Israel and with Syria’s current President Bashar al-Assad. In the past Specter has met with controversial dictators around the world such as the Palestinian Authority’s Chairman Yassar Arafat; Syria’s former leader Hafez al-Assad, Iraq’s former President Saddam Hussein and even Cuba’s President Fidel Castro. Over the years Specter has not always voted along with the Republican party and has been considered one of the few moderate Republicans in the Senate. For this reason and others, many politicial anyalsts believe he may have an uphill battle in his re-election bid. Pennsylvania has previously voted for Democrat Bob Casey to the Senate and has voted for the democratic candidate in the last two presidential elections.
Delrahim is currently an attorney at the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck in Orange County and among a growing number of local Iranian Jews who are becoming more politically active within the community. “There are many folks that support Israel, that may want more entrepreneurship or lower taxes,” said Delrahim. “So we as a community that have particular interests that may not be voiced by others—should be more engaged with government officials, support them and help shape their policy”. On an interesting note Delrahim is not a novice when it comes to U.S. politics and government. He was a former Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Justice Department and has in the past served as a policy advisor to former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Orrin Hatch (R-UT).
Along with a handful of young Iranian Jewish activists from the “30 Years After” organization, a surprise guest at hand was Fran Drescher, Jewish actress and former star of the popular sitcom “The Nanny”. Drescher briefly praised Specter for his efforts in the Senate to pass legislation for government funding of comprehensive stem cell research that would be used to fight cancer. Drescher who is a survivor of uterine cancer has in recent years advocated in Congress on behalf of funding for research to fight cancer and worked along side Specter who fought a successful battle himself with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer while he served in office.