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May 23, 2014     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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PAGE 10A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 23, 2014 Rand Paul&apos;s Jewish outreach finds receptive if wary audience Gage Skidmore Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks at the 2014 Conserva- tive Political Action Confer- ence in March. By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Can Rand Paul woo his party's Jews? The Kentucky senator and likely candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination is stepping up his Jewish outreach. In recent weeks, Paul chatted with rabbis on a conference call and proposed legislation to cut funding to the Palestinian Authority unless it recog- nizes Israel as a Jewish state. Making inroads with Jew- ish Republicans is an uphill battle for Paul, an ardent anti-interventionist and opponent of foreign aid. A few years ago, Jewish Re- publicans were sounding alarms over Paul's foreign policy views, which they saw as inimical to the U.S.-Israel alliance. Now, however, some are sounding a more concilia- tory note. The Republican Jewish Coalition's executive direc- tor, Matthew Brooks, told JTA that Paul has "evolved." "He started off wanting to cut all foreign aid. Now he sees it as a long-term strat- egy. He wants to start scaling back to countries burning flags in their streets," said Brooks, referencing Paul's calls to cut aid to countries that are hostile to the United States. It's a major shift from 2010 when Paul was run- ning for Senate. At the time Brooks had called Paul a "neo-isolationist" who was "outside the comfort level of a lot of people in the Jewish community." The changing tone reflects new political realities. No longer an insurgent Sen- ate candidate, Paul is now a rising power within the Republican Party who is widely assumed to have larger ambitions. Fred Zeidman, a leading fundraiser for GOP presi- dential campaigns, said that Paul's new stature is one reason he deserves a more considered assessment from Republican Jews. "He is a force to be reck- oned with in a presidential race, which I think he is seri- ously considering," said Zeid- man, a former chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum who met recently in Houston with Paul. Brooks declined to discuss the possibility of a Paul presi- dential run, saying that to do so before the midterm con- gressional elections would be "premature." Paul's outreach to Jews is consistent with his message that the Republican Party needs to get out of its com- fort zone and reach out to constituencies that usually do not back it. "One of the biggest issues that Senator Paul faced when it came to the Jewish com- munity was the simple fact that there was not a strong relationship," said Rabbi Chaim Segal, an Orthodox educator and conservative activist based in New York who has assisted Paul in his recent outreach. Part of Paul's Jewish prob- lem has been his parentage: His father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), for decades was a critic of Israel, and his eponymous newsletters published pejorative material about gays, blacks and Jews. The elder Paul has since dis- claimed knowledge of their contents. The younger Paul backed his father's 2012 presiden- tial run. He has picked up his father's libertarian and anti-interventionist agenda, updating it to heighten its appeal to mainstream con- servatives. Supporters of the younger Paul say he shouldn't be held responsible for the sins of his father. "If your dad did something, has a view, that has nothing to do with your views," said Mallory Factor, who teaches political science at The Cita- del, a South Carolina military academy, and initiated intro- ductions between Paul and other Jewish Republicans. "That is a straw man. Criticize the guy and his own views." Paul's Jewish supporters point to his outspoken ad- vocacy of ending U.S. aid to potential enemies of Israel. But Paul's new bill on Pales- tinian Authority funding has received a mixed reception from pro-Israel groups. "We are not supporting the Paul bill," an official with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee told JTA. "We believe the law currently on the books is strong and ensures that aid is contingent on key conditions that help maintain America's influ- ence, keep Israel secure and advance the peace process. AIPAC supports a cutoff of aid to any Palestinian government that includes an unreformed Hamas, and this is what is provided for in current law." Paul has told the con- servative Newsmax media outlet that he finds AIPAC's opposition to his bill "very troubling." "If I were to speak to the 10,000 folks who come up here in support of AIPAC, the vast majority of them would support my bill," he said. 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