Louis Averbach, who is in his mid-60s, once considered himself a middle-of-the-road, conservative Democrat. However, “I don’t like what is happening today with rioting in the street,” he said. “Right now, I would consider myself Republican.”
Averbach was one of about 30 people who gathered at Morry’s Fireplace restaurant in Pico-Robertson on Oct. 20 for a lunch event organized by the Jewish Republican Alliance, a fledgling organization aiming to support Jewish Republicans in heavily Democratic California.
Republican Townhall.com columnist Bruce Bialosky spoke at the event, delivering a speech defending President Donald Trump and criticizing leftists. Bialosky said Trump did nothing wrong when he said “both sides” were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville, Va., over the summer. He called Charlottesville the “holy grail” for those seeking to delegitimize the president.
Real estate broker Bruce Karasik and financial adviser Mitch Silberman, both of the Conejo Valley, co-founded the group last year. It has three chapters — in the Conejo Valley, the San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles.
They hope to expand into a national group with 100 chapters.
They hope to expand the Alliance into a national organization with 100 chapters, and so far the group has nearly 1,000 people on its email list, they said.
The Alliance’s mission statement asserts that “Growing Republican Jewish communities and supporting Israel is key.”
People interviewed at the event said support for Israel was a top priority for them. “A lot of the Jewish community is more about supporting a Democratic candidate whether he is pro-Israel or not,” Averbach said. “[Former President Barack] Obama was not a pro-Israel guy. How could a Jew support the Iran deal?”
The group currently is in the process of applying for nonprofit status and is trying to distinguish itself from the more established Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC).
Karasik said in a phone interview that he and many Alliance members are former RJC members, but he felt the RJC had become “less of a grass-roots organization and more centrally based.”
In a phone interview from Washington, D.C., Alex Siegel, the RJC deputy director, said he is pleased to have an additional organization working to engage Republican Jews.
“There are opportunities for both organizations to succeed in the Jewish community,”
Metuka Benjamin, president of Milken Community Schools, accompanied a friend, Georgette Joffe, to the event. Benjamin said Israel was the only issue that mattered to her, so she wanted to learn what the Alliance was about. “I want a leader who will be very supportive of Israel at a very difficult time,” she said.
The lunch event began with the ha-Motzi blessing, with attendees breaking off pieces of challah and passing them.
Later, Trump supporter Joffe could barely hold down her chicken when Bialosky mentioned New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who wrote in July that Trump’s presidency was the “most morally grotesque administration in American history.”
“He’s a ‘never-Trumper,’ ” Joffe said of Stephens. She supports Trump in part because of her concern about Islamic fundamentalism.
“How many more unvetted Muslim refugees are there than neo-Nazis?” she asked.
One 59-year-old man who spoke with the Journal asked that his name not be used because he worried his support for Trump could threaten his livelihood.
“I am one of the 84 people in my precinct who voted for Donald Trump,” he said, mentioning a newspaper report that some 90 percent of Santa Monica voters cast ballots for Hillary Clinton.
The event attracted both insiders and outsiders in the Republican Party. Before taking his seat, Gary Aminoff, treasurer of the Republican Party in Los Angeles County, said Los Angeles Jews have many incorrect assumptions about Republicans.
“The misconceptions are that we’re racist, that we don’t care about poor people who have financial problems — none of that is true,” he said. “We need Jews on both sides of the [aisle] but Democrats are not really behind Israel.”
An earlier version of this article referred to Bialosky as a conservative columnist.