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Elkins Park Resident Starts New Palin Club
It's hard to find a political figure today held in less esteem in the eyes of most Jews than former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a blogger for the conservative publication Commentary wrote earlier this year.
Jennifer Rubin, in a January posting analyzing the Palin phenomenon, asserted that while they might be off-base, Jews see her as "uncouth, unschooled, a hick, anti-science and anti-intellectual, an upstart, and a religious fanatic."
Nevertheless, a former editor of the Jewish Exponent is going against the grain, hoping to tap into what he sees as growing Jewish concerns about President Barack Obama, with the start of a new group called Jewish Americans for Sarah Palin (Jewsforsarah.com).
Benyamin Korn, an Elkins Park resident who ran the paper in the 1990s, and later worked for the Zionist Organization of America, said that Palin "has emerged as the most forceful and articulate opponent to the president on the American scene."
Korn said that the group is not raising funds for a potential Palin candidacy. Instead, he said, it is about getting a fair hearing in the court of Jewish public opinion for the views of a highly visible GOP spokeswoman, who may or may not decide to run another national campaign.
Not that Korn doesn't think Palin has a political future. He compared her to both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, who he said were both underestimated early in their careers.
"We are genuine admirers of hers," he said, referring to supporters he declined to name. "We feel that she has depth and substance and character, and is being underestimated."
Palin, considered by many to be a radical social conservative, hasn't been popular with Jews from the start; an American Jewish Committee poll from September 2008 found 54 percent of Jews disapproved of John McCain's vice presidential choice.
Since resigning from her gubernatorial post almost a year ago, Palin has published a book, become a Fox News commentator and a regular at Tea Party functions around the country.
She has also been a forceful critic of Obama's demands on the Israeli government and overall approach to the Mideast.
It's that critique that Korn said is driving him.
"The Obama administration's tilt against Israel, its tacit acceptance of a nuclear-armed Iran and its weak approach to combating Islamic terrorism all pose a direct challenge to Jewish Americans," he wrote on his Web site, launched this week.
It is not clear how much financial and logistical backing the group has garnered. Korn said that a full advisory committee list would be forthcoming.
One member, Nahum Duker, a Temple University School of Medicine professor, noted that even many Jewish Republicans harbor a negative view of Palin.
"I believe that the Jewish Republican establishment are not the kind of people who would support a populist Republican. For some, there is an absolute loathing of her," said Duker.
Scott Feigelstein, director of the Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which does not endorse candidates or work with campaigns, said that opinions about Palin among RJC members are divided.
"There are people who are very much in favor" of her, he said, and "others who don't think she is ready for prime time."
But Michael Bronstein, a Democratic political consultant active in pro-Israel causes, said that if Republicans are serious about making Israel an issue, they need to find someone else.
"I think she should be treated as a celebrity, and not as a politician," said Bronstein. "A group that gives her any type of voice is probably a detriment and a mockery to all politics, and certainly a mockery to our community."