I’ve long wanted to attend the annual CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee) gathering in Washington DC. Given the unprecedented stakes in the 2020 election, I decided that this was the year I would finally take the plunge.
It’s quite scary but there’s a real chance that we could elect a socialist as president which would literally destroy everything that is great about this country. And I’m not just talking about Bernie Sanders. Someone like Joe Biden is essentially also advocating socialist policies—it’s just a matter of degree. And if you think that we in the Orthodox Jewish community aren’t impacted, and will just go about our lives regardless of who wins in November and which party controls Congress, you are sorely mistaken. Our whole way of life will be in jeopardy if the hard-left gains power. The markets will tank, taxes will skyrocket and there will be no way to fund our communal institutions. Not to mention the potential negative impact to the State of Israel. Socialism has been tried all over the world and has been a miserable failure. Being complacent about the political landscape in this country is just no longer an option.
So I took two days off from work and a Shabbos away from my family and headed to DC. What I experienced was nothing short of incredible. To be surrounded by like-minded people who have an abundance of love for America and the freedom we enjoy is a powerful experience. To not have to hear the negativity that dominates in the mainstream media for three whole days and to hear speaker after speaker elaborate on all that makes America great was incredibly refreshing. To be surrounded by young people who haven’t been brainwashed into supporting those who offer “free” stuff, denigrate our great country and our freedoms and are ignorant of history gives me hope for the next generation. And finally, being among those who uniformly have tremendous hakarat hatov to President Trump for everything he’s done to restore “greatness” to America is truly uplifting.
Let me start my recap with an issue that is near and dear to those in our community: Israel. While the dominant position in our circles is that there is bi-partisan support for Israel, the grim reality is that most Democratic politicians just say they are pro-Israel while doing little to support polices that are actually in Israel’s best interests, or worse yet work behind the scenes to actually hurt Israel. The Republican Party is where you will find people who are truly pro-Israel. It’s sad to say this, but most conservative Christians are infinitely more pro-Israel than most Jews, whose allegiance is to the Democratic Party first and foremost.
Israel was front and center and the love for Israel among all participants was palpable. For example, the cheers that erupted whenever it was mentioned that President Trump moved the American embassy to Jerusalem rivaled that of any other pronouncement. There were three full days of live programming in a huge ballroom seating thousands. Only ONE session wasn’t in person in that ballroom. And that was a session that was broadcast via satellite live from David’s Village in Jerusalem featuring Ambassador David Friedman. And this was no ordinary session. Ambassador Friedman (and a couple of other guests) literally walked through recent archeological findings that directly connect
the Jewish people to Jerusalem historically. You certainly won’t hear anything like that at AIPAC’s conference this week as it will not be politically correct for all the leftists in attendance. But mainstream Republicans get it. The Republican Party is the true home of those who love Israel and recognize it as the homeland of the Jewish people and bastion of freedom in that region of the world.
There were other sessions on the main stage that addressed the strong bond between the Trump administration and the Israeli government and how dangerous it would be for Israel if, God forbid, one of those Democrats were elected president. On Friday afternoon, there was a panel entitled,“Israel: What should the map look like” featuring Caroline Glick, Congressman Lee Zeldin, Scott Walker and Yishai Fleisher which again spoke to an applauding audience about positions our community embraces.
Of course, while Israel is near and dear to the hearts of our community, the conference was a broad call to action for the conservative movement. Freedom itself is at stake. The title of the conference was “America vs. Socialism” and speaker after speaker explained the history of socialism and all its derivatives, how it has led to nothing but misery and poverty and how today’s versions being touted are no different. Socialism is immoral because it strips human dignity and the value of the individual. Socialism is antithetical to fundamental human rights. Socialism leads to decay and ruin in the civil society. Socialism has let poverty and tyranny reign everywhere it’s been tried. While so many presentations are worth hearing, I would recommend everyone search for Glenn Beck’s address on YouTube where he articulates how the rhetoric coming from today’s “Democratic Socialists” do not sound all that different from the Nazis in the early 1930s.
How we got to the point where so many Americans are taken by such a rotten ideology is beyond the scope of this piece but so much of the conference was dedicated to how we could go back to our communities and educate people on the ills of socialism. There are unfortunately no easy solutions as the root of the problem lies in that the younger generation is taught a warped view of history and are simply ignorant of how socialism has failed again and again all over the world for generations. They need to be educated on how free markets have led to just about every innovation of the past 200 years. How freedom has lifted everyone’s standards of living beyond what anyone could have imagined a century ago. Two hundred years ago, almost 95% of the world lived in abject poverty, the median life expectancy was 40 (yes, most of you reading this now would be dead already) and a third of all children born, died before the age of 5. Had we adopted socialism then, that would likely still be the case! I could go on and on but my message to those who think that elections don’t matter is—think again!
Now on to Shabbat. I am grateful to the Young Jewish Conservatives for arranging a beautiful Shabbat at a hotel right across the street from the conference. After a beautiful and inspiring davening with about 150 fellow frum conservatives, I had the pleasure of sitting for Shabbat dinner with Julie Strauss Levin (wife of conservative radio talk show host Mark Levin, “The Great One”). Aside from stimulating conversation, I got to thank her for all the great work she and her husband do on behalf of our great country. Julie and Mark were also on the main stage at CPAC Saturday morning and were phenomenal. They were allotted 20 minutes and spent the first five of them discussing Israel and how important it was that Netanyahu stay in power!
After dinner, there was a dessert reception where there were numerous speakers including Glick, Mort Klein and various non-Jewish media personalities who expressed amazement at how many observant Jews were willing to come to CPAC while finding a way to observe Shabbat at the same time. What a tremendous kiddush Hashem! All the speakers were great. Glick in particular gave a beautiful dvar Torah linking the Mishkan, Israel and the conservative movement in America.
The love for President Trump was apparent all throughout the conference but with the president speaking on Saturday, there was an even more intense aura in the room. Red MAGA hats and “Keep America Great” hats were everywhere. Speaker after speaker praised the president for all the amazing things he’s done over just three short years. From creating millions of jobs, to lowering taxes, to amazing trade deals, to getting rid of regulations, to rebuilding the military, to restoring our standing in the world, to taking out terrorists, to moving the embassy to Jerusalem—the list just goes on and on. If you would have asked me four years ago if we would ever have a president as great as Ronald Reagan again in my lifetime, I would have said that I doubted it. Well, I think that after only three years, one can make a strong argument that President Donald Trump has accomplished more for America than even the great President Reagan did in eight years. And all that while the opposition party was doing everything they could to bring him down with lies, smears, and hoaxes.
Why did I write this? I think there’s a certain complacency from which we must awaken! At the very least, we should be educating our children, friends and neighbors about what’s at stake in November. I myself hope to volunteer for the Republican Party on election day and the days prior to knock on doors and get people to vote in swing states. I would encourage everyone to think about what they can do to help save our country. And hopefully some of you will be inspired to join me in Washington for CPAC 2021.
By Gershon Distenfeld