Jews are facing another exodus … this time from the House of Representatives.
Retirements and tough election races stand to sharply reduce the number of Jewish lawmakers in Congress. The House currently has 27 Jewish members.
“I’m not worried, but it will be different,” Yossi Gestetner, co-founder of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council, told The Post, adding that fewer Jewish members would make the House less likely to deliver on Jewish issues and priorities. “Losing members from the tribe makes it more difficult going forward.”
On the retirement front, Democrats Nita Lowey and Susan Davis will be leaving. Lowey, who New Yorkers first elected in 1989, chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Davis, a Californian with 19 years under her belt, will also leave behind a number of senior committee posts.
Adam Schleifer and David Buchwald, both Jewish, are running for Lowey’s seat. Even if one wins, he’ll be decades away from the seniority she has earned. New York’s Democratic primary is Tuesday.
In New Jersey, moderate Jewish lawmaker Rep. Josh Gottheimer is facing a spirited primary challenge from progressive Indian-American neuroscientist Arati Kreibich, who is being backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Two more Jewish lawmakers, Staten Island’s Max Rose and and Virginia’s Elaine Luria, are facing tough re-election races in historically right-leaning districts that President Trump won in 2016. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, another longtime Jewish Democrat from Manhattan, has two progressive primary opponents, though most outsiders believe he will prevail.
Another Jewish warhorse, New York Democrat Eliot Engel, is facing progressive educator Jamaal Bowman in the ugliest primary of his congressional career. A rare pre-primary survey by Data for Progress, a progressive polling firm, found Engel trailing Bowman by 10 points. Bowman has netted high profile endorsements from progressive icons such as Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Queens).
Engel is chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He, like all the at-risk Jewish Democrats, is a rock-ribbed Israel supporter and has played a big roll in keeping Israel issues bipartisan. That, however, could change if progressive challengers win, bolstering the ranks of staunch Israel critics like Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar.
Bowman is “certainly not as strong [on Israel] as Engel and I don’t think he would be good,” Englewood Rabbi Menachem Genack, a former spiritual adviser to Bill Clinton, told The Post. “We all worry, to make sure support for Israel is bipartisan. This element on the party, the progressive Bernie wing, is something of deep concern.”
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