June 16, 2024
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Nikki Haley addresses the crowd in Tenafly.

From all indicators at the event held on September 20 in Tenafly, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley has a strong base of support among the Jewish communities of Northern New Jersey and New York.

An estimated 400-plus people filled a large ballroom at the Knickerbocker Country Club to hear the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and South Carolina Governor speak in a “Conversation with Nikki Haley,” organized by the Haley campaign and supported by NORPAC and AIPAC. Haley received frequent and enthusiastic applause throughout the one-and-a-half-hour program, and attendees told The Jewish Link about their deep admiration for the candidate.

Haley was introduced by Joe Folkman, a Jewish business owner from Anderson, South Carolina who owns a lawn and garden products manufacturing business. He spoke about his friendship with and support of Haley from her days as two-term governor of South Carolina. He mentioned that the state had a 11.2% unemployment rate before she was elected and in her two terms, she created 400,000 new jobs. She was also the first governor in the United States to ban BDS. In 2017, she became the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and “she sought consensus when she could, and she dug in her heels when needed.” Folkman praised Haley’s grace, humility and dignity and pointed out that a CNN poll found that she is the only Republican candidate to handily defeat President Joe Biden. “We need to stop voting with our egos and start voting with our brains,” he said, urging audience members to support Haley.

The interviewer, Bennett Schachter, asks Nikki Haley a question at the September 20 event.

Haley then took the small stage for a friendly interview with an unidentified member of one of the sponsoring organizations. She first spoke of her upbringing as a child of immigrants from India in a small town in South Carolina, with a population of 2,500. When she complained about other kids in school making fun of her, her mother told her: “Your job is not to show them how you are different, but to show how you are similar.” She has used that advice as a guiding philosophy in her adult life, to always look for points of commonality. She spoke about her 26-year marriage to Major Michael Haley, an active-duty soldier who is currently deployed overseas, their two children, and the fact that her parents, who are in their mid-80s, live with her family.

Haley is an accountant by trade and recalled telling her mother at one point how it was “so hard to earn a dollar and so easy for the government to take it.” Her mother challenged her to “do something about it.” Haley, who served two terms as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives (2005-2010) decided to run for governor and ran against a field of established politicians; she was relatively unknown and termed “Nikki Who?” in the press. Yet she ran a disciplined campaign and in November 2010 she was elected governor of South Carolina, a position she held from 2011 to 2017.

A view of the SRO crowd that gathered to hear Haley.

She viewed raising the spirits of South Carolina residents as an urgent task, because “I saw that people were down on themselves and the state.” She decided to focus on the forgotten people of the state and managed to get 35,000 people from welfare into work and to create computer classes, family management classes and other instruction in state prisons, which led to the state having the lowest recidivism rate in the country. She brought in a number of major businesses to establish headquarters in the state and the state was later named the No. 2 state where people were moving.

Asked to address national domestic issues, Haley spoke about the growing crisis in public education. She stated that even before COVID, U.S. grade school and high school test scores were declining, with (as one example) 67% of students testing as not proficient in math. She talked about her work in South Carolina to offer more widespread reading remediation classes and the importance of allowing parents to choose their children’s schools.

She also talked about the federal government’s poor planning on the economy, with inflation “sky high” and the country now $33 trillion in debt. She stated that Democratic and Republican presidents have contributed to this situation and mentioned the 7,000 special appropriations in the latest federal budget, even as an estimated 50% of families cannot afford diapers. “We have to get our national debt, spending and inflation under control,” she said.

Nikki Haley speaks at the Sept 20 event.

She criticized the “open borders” under President Biden, stating that “we are a nation of laws” and should live by them. She also expressed concern about the “national self-loathing, which has taken over our country.” She said, “America is not racist, we’re blessed,” and added that our military should inspire us: “If they are willing to fight for us over there, should we be willing to fight for us here?”

She then spoke about her work as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the administration of President Donald Trump from January 2017 to December 2018, and her vocal support of Israel in that role. “I would love to take a lot of credit [for supporting Israel] but I didn’t know much about Israel when I started,” she confessed. She discussed the passage of U.N. Resolution 2334, condemning Israel, in the waning days of the Obama administration, which abstained from the vote and used the resolution to humiliate the State of Israel and its Ambassador to the U.N., Danny Danon.

Haley looked into the situation and discovered that the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. did not return Danon’s calls before the vote. Haley determined to change course as ambassador and broke established protocol by making a meeting with Danon one of her first meetings upon taking office. She shared her view with the crowd that “Israel is a good country, doing very good things in the world” and that “Israel doesn’t need America, America needs Israel!”

Haley pointed out that this month President Biden was meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the current United Nations General Assembly sessions, after snubbing Netanyahu for months and not inviting him to the White House. Haley stated: “If you don’t know who your friends are, you’ll never defeat your enemies.”

A view of the audience.

She discussed the value of the Abraham Accords, established during her term as ambassador, and her view that by insulting King Muhammed bin Salman by calling Saudi Arabia a “pariah state” for human rights violations during his 2020 election campaign, Biden made it very unlikely that Saudi Arabia would join the accords. “When I am president, Haley said, “we will add a lot more countries to the Abraham Accords.”

She concluded her talk by noting critical mistakes the Biden administration had made in dealing with America’s greatest enemies—Iran, China and Russia. She decried the recent $6 billion cash-for-prisoners exchange with Iran and said that it puts a price tag on all Americans’ heads. She said that the U.S. should put an immediate stop to China buying land here, acquiring American technology, and investing in U.S. universities. And she warned of the grave consequences of Russia forming alliances with Iran and North Korea to obtain weapons for its war in Ukraine.

Speaking with The Jewish Link before the talk, Steve Rabitz of Teaneck said: “I’ve always been extremely energized by Ambassador Haley. She has a compelling story and a message for the American people.” Dr. Andrew and Stephanie Becker of Highland Park shared: “We liked her performance at the Republican Primary debate; she showed real ‘saychol’ in her responses. And no one is stronger than her on Israel.” Carmi Abramowitz of Bergenfield said: “At the Republican debate, she was the only candidate who clearly articulated her conservative beliefs while also stating clearly her interest in pursuing realistic collaborative legislation with colleagues across the aisle. She was the only one who could hold two different thoughts in her head at the same time.”

Harry Glazer is the Middlesex County Editor for The Jewish Link. He can be reached at [email protected] 

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