Ilhan Omar
Ilhan OmarReuters

Arutz Sheva spoke with Elizabeth Pipko, a 23-year-old Jewish figure skater-turned-model, who recently launched the ‘’JEXODUS’ movement, calling for a "mass Jewish exodus from the Democratic party".

For nearly a century, American Jews have been one of the most reliable voting blocs for the Democratic party. At the national level, Democratic presidential nominees have won the Jewish vote – typically by wide margins – in every single election since 1924. In 2016, Jewish voters backed Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a margin of 71% to 25%.

Numerous Republican candidates over the years have looked to capitalize on the growing support within the GOP for Israel to win over Jewish voters. Yet no Republican presidential hopeful has managed to win even a third of the Jewish vote over the past 30 years.

But could the Democratic lock on the Jewish vote be about to finally crack?

Ilhan Omar and the Democratic Jewish Conundrum

This week, House Democrats were drawn into an internecine fight over their party’s response to a string of anti-Semitic controversies sparked by Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s criticism of Israel supporters and allegations Jewish groups had bought off lawmakers to support Israel.

Her suggestions that supporters of Israel were guilty of ‘dual loyalties’ or allegiance to a foreign power were decried as anti-Semitic by Republicans and even some Democrats.

Yet a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, which had been drawn up by Democratic lawmakers in response to Omar’s comments, failed to censure Omar, and on Wednesday was rewritten on to remove the specific condemnation of anti-Semitism, leading to a broad rejection of bigotry.

Allegations that Omar peddled in anti-Semitism – drawing the rebuke of the Anti-Defamation League – and the Democratic party’s challenges in addressing the scandal have placed some Jewish supporters of the party in a quandary.

The straw that broke the camel’s back?

This is not the first time the Jewish-Democratic relationship has been tested.

During the Obama administration, some Jewish Democrats expressed concern over the president’s handling of the relationship with Israel.

Demands by Obama that Israel accept a unilateral building freeze in Judea, Samaria, and east Jerusalem, pressure by the administration on Israel to prematurely halt its campaign against the Hamas terror organization in 2014, and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal raised tensions not only between Washington and Jerusalem, but between the Democratic party and some of its centrist Jewish supporters.

While Jewish support for the party remained largely intact following the frosty Obama-Netanyahu relationship, concerns regarding the tolerance in some quarters of the party for anti-Semitism and prominent anti-Semites raised alarm bells in 2018.

After pictures were released of then-Senator Barack Obama greeting Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan on Capitol Hill, lifelong Democrat Alan Dershowitz excoriated Obama, saying he regretted campaigning for the president.

“Louis Farrakhan is a virulent anti-Semite,” said Dershowitz. “He called Judaism a ‘gutter religion.’ He’s anti-American.”

“He is a horrible, horrible human being, and if I had known that the president had posed, smilingly, with him when [Obama] was a senator, I would not have campaigned for Barack Obama [in 2008]. It would have influenced my decision.”

‘If not now, when?’

Nevertheless, roughly three-quarters of American Jewish voters backed Democrats in the 2018 midterms, a GBA Strategies poll showed. Exit polls showed a whopping 79% of Jewish voters went Democratic, compared to just 17% who voted Republican.

Despite the numbers, however, Elizabeth Pipko believes the time is ripe for a major shift in American Jewish politics.

Modeled after the “Blexit” movement or ‘Black Exit’ from the Democratic party launched by conservative activist Candace Owens in 2018, JEXODUS aims to provide young American Jews with a forum for voicing their concerns with the direction the Democratic party has taken, and encourage them to “walk away” from the party.

“If not now, when?” Pipko said of the nascent effort, pointing to the Democratic party’s current anti-Semitism debacle.

Elizabeth Pipko
Elizabeth PipkoCourtesy of JEXODUS

‘No place for Jews in the Democratic party’

In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Pipko said the new JEXODUS movement hoped to offer venues and public forums for young Jews disenchanted with the Democratic party to “stand up for their beliefs”.

"The whole point is to have actual, physical events,” Pipko said. “We're going to have rallies and other events where we can get people excited and have an environment where young Jews can feel safe and unafraid and stand up for their beliefs."

"We're going to have giant events. We're trying to go across the whole country. We're going to start off in New York and Florida, and hit all the states that matter for 2020, from Pennsylvania to Ohio to Michigan. We're going to have events on college campuses to talk to young people as well, meet with different groups."

What kind of a response has JEXODUS gotten so far?

"Very positive. Right now we're dealing with [anti-Semitism] a lot in the US. We have a debate on anti-Semitism going on in Congress and our government, and people are getting very involved in that and its driving them towards JEXODUS. Obviously, there will always be people who are against it, but I think most people are very positive and hopeful about what we are going to be able to do."

Why now?

"I've had it in my mind for a long time. I think we saw it in the Obama presidency, the turn towards anti-Israel policies, accompanied by a rise in anti-Semitism in our country. And its only gotten worse, and right now we have anti-Semitism in the halls of Congress. So if not now, when?"

Jews have leaned Democratic for almost a century. Do you see that changing?

"There are millions of Jews in the country, and we can't reach them all and I don't want to say that we actually plan on flipping the Jewish vote. But I'm incredibly positive and optimistic. And with President Trump, you can never really know what will happen. So I'm very hopeful."

What would is the number one reason you would offer to a young, liberal Jew to convince him or her to leave the Democratic party?

"The rise of anti-Israel movements, including the BDS movement, which is mostly supported by Democrats. Things like the Iran deal, which was signed with the support of Democrats. There are plenty of reasons. But I think that now, more than ever, the Democrats have given us a reason. They are basically supporting blatant anti-Semitism in Congress. I think if there's any time you can feel comfortable and powerful enough as a Jew to walk away, that's now."

Why do you think Jews have been so strongly Democratic for so long?

"That's a question I've been trying to answer. I grew up an incredibly proud Jew, which is what led me towards the Republicans. I was not raised a Republican, I was raised as a Jew before anything else."

"I think there was always a very obvious support for Israel in our country, whether you were Republican or Democrat. So it was a lot safer back then to be a Democrat. That has obviously changed, so I think Jews are going to head in the other direction."

Will you also be reaching out to strongly progressive-left Jews who have no interest in joining the GOP? Or are you geared more towards recruiting Jews for the Republican Party?

"What is most important is to include all Jews in what we are doing. I'm going to tell anyone to become a Republican. But there is obviously a need right now to support fellow Jews, to have them recognize what is going on in the halls of Congress, and to get them to walk away. We're not calling on anyone to be a supporter of President Trump, I'll let people come to their own conclusions. But right now as a Jewish person, you cannot support the Democratic party and support the Jewish people at the same time."

Other than the anti-Semitic controversies involving some Democrats lately and issues involving Israel, are there any domestic issues you believe should be a cause for concern for Jewish Democrats?

"Yes, there are many. I was raised, as a Jewish person, to value life before anything. We just had a vote passed not to protect babies who had survived abortion," Pipko said, referring to Democratic opposition to the Republican-backed "Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act", which would have guaranteed medical care to infants born after failed abortions.

"So in New York, if a baby survives an abortion, there will be no guaranteed medical attention, their life has been basically thrown out the window. As a Jewish person, I value life, and the Republican party agrees. I'm definitely more right-leaning than a lot of people, but I think that to be a Jew and to be pro-late term abortion is very hypocritical."

How much of your outreach is aimed at instilling Jewish values, rather than just specific political actions, like leaving the Democratic party?

"Obviously this is more political than it is religious. But religion is most important for me, I think it is what drives a lot of Jewish people to look deep-down at our values and make us go in this direction, as opposed to just politics. If you look at what you think Hashem [Hebrew term for God] would want us to do, what your parents and grandparents would want you to do, you're going to realize that what is going on [in the Democratic party] is wrong."

When are we going to see JEXODUS-led public events?

"Our first events are going to be happening in April in New York and Florida around Pesach. Hopefully right before and after Pesach will be our first events. Then we'll continue through the month and on until the election in 2020."