News and Commentary

Jewish Groups: Democrats Should Oust Keith Ellison For His Meetings With Anti-Semite Farrakhan

It’s not just Jewish Republicans who are condemning Rep. Keith Ellison for his contact with the vehemently anti-Semitic Rev. Louis Farrakhan, the head of the Nation of Islam; the leading organization representing Jewish Democrats is slamming him for his consistent appearances at events with Farrakhan.

Ellison had protested in 2006, when he mounted his first campaign for Congress, that he had cut all ties with Farrakhan’s group, which he had worked with in the 1990’s; he reiterated that claim in 2016, when running to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee. But The Wall Street Journal reported on February 8 of a September 2013 dinner hosted by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that found both Ellison and Farrakhan in attendance. On February 13, The Daily Caller reported that Ellison met Farrakhan twice since Ellison was elected to Congress.

Unsurprisingly, the Jewish Democrats are targeting Ellison for his action but stop short of calling for his resignation as Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee, which other well-known Jewish groups have done.

The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) accepted Ellison’s explanation that he did not know in advance that Farrakhan would join him at the dinner hosted by Rouhani, but added, “when he realized Farrakhan was there, Ellison should not have tolerated Farrakhan’s presence.” JDCA’s chair, Ron Klein, who was once a Democratic member of Congress from Florida, told Jewish New Syndicate, “Even though Ellison was there to discuss the release of a former U.S. marine held captive in Iran, personally, if I were invited, I would not have attended. … Louis Farrakhan has a long history of anti-Semitism, racism and anti-LGBT rhetoric and should not be at all welcome in mainstream political or policy conversations.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who consistently leans toward the Democratic Party, allowed that Farrakhan’s presence at the Rouhani dinner was “extremely disturbing” and that “the presence of Louis Farrakhan should have been a red flag” for Ellison. David Bernstein, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, tweeted that Ellison’s actions were “very disturbing… Dining with hatemongers is not ok.”

But other Jewish groups not as beholden to the Democratic Party are calling for Ellison to resign; Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, said Ellison “demonstrated exceedingly poor judgment by participating in a meeting with one of America’s most notorious anti-Semites and the leader of a regime that has called for Israel’s annihilation,” and therefore “should resign as deputy chairman of the Democratic Party.” Halber was adamant about his position even before The Daily Caller report, telling JNS, “If evidence of more meetings with Farrakhan should surface, there will be a tremendous groundswell of people in the Jewish community and in the Democratic Party, telling Ellison to step down—and it would be irresponsible of the party’s leaders not to demand his resignation.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said Halber’s position is “commendable.” Cooper said the Democratic Party leadership should “take a long, hard look at Ron Halber’s appeal, which comes from an important organization and reflects the anger of many American Jews.” He added, “Ellison was not properly vetted before being appointed deputy chairman of the party.”

The National Council of Young Israel (NCYI), representing over 100 Orthodox synagogues, and the Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), representing several hundred Orthodox rabbis, agree Ellison should resign; NCYI President Farley Weiss noted Ellison’s statements being at odds with the truth, stating, “Congressman Ellison has a serious credibility problem.” CJV President Rabbi Pesach Lerner said, “All those who condemned President [Donald] Trump for not forcefully denouncing the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville must now demonstrate that this was not merely partisan politics—they must denounce Ellison’s dishonesty and continued contact with one of America’s leading anti-Semitic hatemongers, and call upon [Ellison] to resign both his seat in congress and as deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee.”

Democratic Party consultant Dr. Hank Sheinkopf pointed out the wide gap between religious Jews and non-religious Jews when it came to the partisan divide, commenting that Jewish Democrats, the huge majority of whom are non-Orthodox Jews, would not oust Ellison. He said, “It would likely take the collision of Earth and Mars to stop the majority of American Jews from blindly voting Democrat. The Orthodox largely left the Democrats a while back; the rest think there is an 11th commandment—‘Thou shalt vote Democrat.’”