From every Friday at sunset until nightfall Saturday, Orthodox Jews “do not drive, use electronic devices, employ handwriting instruments (e.g. pens, pencils), among other prohibited activities,” the rabbis wrote. “As such, it would be impossible for Jews of faith to vote in your unassembled convention.”
Jews voting absentee could list rabbis as references to verify their religious obligation, wrote the four: Rabbi Sender Haber of B’nai Israel Congregation in Norfolk; Rabbi Dovid Asher of Keneseth Beth Israel in Richmond; Rabbi Aaron Margolin of Chabad Lubavitch of Tidewater in Norfolk; and Rabbi Leibel Fajnland of Chabad Lubavitch of Reston and Herndon.
But the state GOP’s governing body — which was bitterly divided for months over whether to hold a primary or convention, and is torn over how to tally convention ballots — rejected the rabbis’ request at a meeting Thursday night. After emotional debate, a narrow majority of State Central Committee members voted in favor of allowing absentee voting for religious reasons, but the measure failed to win the 75 percent supermajority needed to change the party rules.
“My God, this is why people say we are not inclusive!” Thomas Turner, chairman of the Virginia’s Young Republicans and one of the committee’s few Black members, shouted during the debate. “I’ve been fighting for inclusivity for the last decade in this party. . . . This is shameful. Let my brothers and sisters in the Jewish community vote. We talk about voter integrity and we’re trying to suppress the vote.”
But Mike Ginsberg, a committee member who is Jewish, pushed back — objecting, he said, because the rabbis raised the issue too close to the convention date. Three of the rabbis wrote to Anderson on April 5, about a month before the convention. The fourth, Fajnland, signed onto the letter after it was sent, on April 18.
“To accuse anyone voting against this of being closed-minded or unfriendly to the Jewish faith — they’re my coreligionists,” Ginsberg said in the meeting. “This is not bigotry. … Here we are, two weeks out, trying to deal with this. My view, it’s too late.”
Ken Reid says he is one of about 15 Orthodox Jews in Norfolk who had signed up to serve as a voting delegate at the convention.
“Orthodox Jews by overwhelming majorities vote Republican, and are staunch Trump supporters, [conservative] values voters, and 2nd amendment backers. But Shabbat is our most important holiday,” Reid wrote this week on the Bull Elephant, a conservative blog.
Reid, while disappointed with the committee’s decision, did not attribute it to anti-Semitism.
“It’s not anti-Semitism, it’s anti-realism,” he said. “There’s a hardcore number of people who want to keep this a small tent. They really don’t see a need [to expand]. They say they want everybody to vote, but they don’t do anything to do it. . . . And they don’t understand we’re getting killed in elections.”
Anderson was traveling Friday and was not immediately available for comment. A spokesman for the state GOP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Seven Republicans are seeking their party’s gubernatorial nomination: state Sen. Amanda F. Chase (Chesterfield); Del. Kirk Cox (Colonial Heights), a former House speaker; retired Army Col. Sergio de la Peña; former think tank executive Peter Doran; businessman Pete Snyder; former Carlyle Group executive Glenn Youngkin; and former Roanoke sheriff Octavia Johnson.
Several of them — Cox, Doran, Snyder and Youngkin — tweeted that they were disappointed with the committee’s decision, noting that the GOP often promotes itself as the party of religious freedom.
Former Republican congressman Denver Riggleman, who lost his reelection bid in a nominating convention last year, called the decision “ludicrous and bigoted” on Twitter.
“Low IQ insanity from those in Virginia GOP ruling against allowing Jewish voting exemptions for a convoluted convention that disenfranchises hundreds of thousands,” he tweeted. “VA GOP is diseased.”