"Value Voters Summit" clashes with Jewish values

A big conservative confab is scheduled for the same time as Rosh Hashanah, a major Jewish holiday

Published September 17, 2009 3:43PM (EDT)

During the presidential campaign last year, there was much gnashing of teeth, pulling of hair and rending of garments over whether a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama would be able to pull a decent share of the Jewish vote. That concern turned out to be totally misplaced; Obama took 78 percent of Jews' ballots, more support than John Kerry had gotten four years earlier.

And if the early stages of the maneuvering for the 2012 GOP nomination are any indication, Democrats don't have much reason to fear that they'll lose this small, but reliable, bloc of votes any time soon. The Family Research Council is holding its annual "Values Voter Summit" in Washington this weekend. The summit gives Republicans, including some would-be presidential candidates, a chance to play to activists -- unless, that is, those activists happen to be Jewish.

The summit this year coincides with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and one of the religion's most important holidays; it begins Friday night at sundown. There aren't very many Jewish Republicans to begin with, but chances are very few of them will make it to the summit, to hear from the likes of Mitt Romney and others. There are more speakers on Friday -- Mike Huckabee, Mike Pence, Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty (and also Stephen Baldwin) -- but it's hard to imagine many Jewish conservatives heading to Washington for the event just for one day.

Does the FRC think Jews don't have values? Or was this just the only fall weekend they could get into the Omni Shoreham hotel? Whatever the explanation, at least one Republican was able to dodge a conflict -- Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the second-ranking GOP House leader and one of the GOP's most prominent Jewish members, will speak Friday morning. At any rate, it's likely the summit won't get quite as much media coverage as it otherwise would have if it wasn't being held on a major Jewish holiday. (Including from Salon -- I'll be there tomorrow, but not Saturday.)

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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