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Faith, Freedom, and Kugel

Jay D. Homnick

Renaissance is a con artist’s word, all sizzle and no steak. Renascence is the clean English version of the same word, growing from the identical roots, also meaning rebirth and reemergence. But try calling your organization the Patriotic Renascence Project and see where it gets you. So touching down inWashingtonDC for a weekend conference at the Renaissance Hotel, I’m preprogrammed to expect fluff.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

elephant drawringRalph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition is hosting, but the big names are the draw: Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, and so many more of like mind. Meet all your Republican rock stars, even if they can only give you nine seconds apiece. Buy their books when they sit down to sign them, and now you’re up to 16 seconds. Not long enough to get their meatloaf recipe but enough to guarantee an authentic name-drop for life. A fair enough trade, I figure, but still a long way from real substance.

The coalition itself is a new encounter for most of the guests. Politically savvy folks, of the sort this event might attract, have been following Ralph Reed’s career since he was a big mover and shaker in the Reagan campaign. He wears the 32 intervening years lightly, but you don’t hear his name today as much as when he led the Christian Coalition.

Orthodox Jews loved getting those voter guides from the coalition back in the 1990s, because they taught the candidates’ real positions and voting records in a way the media couldn’t or wouldn’t. But is Ralph still relevant? That’s a question we are hoping to answer this weekend. Our early clue is from his ability to draw the big names to his podium, but we are keeping eyes and ears open.

Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition hosts this event annually, attracting Republican political supporters and others committed to traditional values from across the country. This year’s convention has the added urgency of an election year, and considered our Orthodox Jewish group important enough to make us Shabbos accommodations.

For the 40-or-so in our Orthodox group, we figure our downside is covered by our buddies. Worse comes to worst, if the Faith lacks credibility and the Freedom is too expensive, we can always hang with a fellow we remember from yeshivah and a guy who davens at our brother-in-law’s shul. We know we can count on the organizing skills of super-activist Jeff Ballabon, who is at home in the study hall at Ner Israel in Baltimore as much as he was in the corridors of the George W. Bush White House. How bad can it be to have summer camp for three days, including a Shabbos, and sharing a little kugel with folks who are culturally and politically on the same … er, daf as we are?

Okay, then. Go to your room, fluff out your pillows, rig up some contraption with duct tape and tissue paper to keep your door from locking on Shabbos, and you’re in business. Let’s hear what these Republican types have to say.



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