REPUBLICAN JEWISH COALITION. Formerly known as the National Jewish Coalition, the RJC began in 1985 as an effort by senior Jewish leaders to craft positive and productive relationships with Republican Party officials, decision-makers, and opinion leaders, and to serve as a bridge between the Republican Party and the Jewish community. RJC leaders worked on the first significant efforts to promote the GOP as a community that should and would welcome Americans Jews. Across a range of foreign and domestic issues, and over time, the national Jewish political conversation has, indeed, broadened.
In 2005 RJC was at the forefront of efforts within the Jewish community to work closely with a GOP White House and U.S. Congress, through its legislative affairs committee, and its continuing grassroots, media and public affairs outreach efforts. As well, the RJC (and its sister non-profit educational organization, the Jewish Policy Center) worked to communicate the GOP message to the Jewish community, with special focus on Israel, national security, and economic growth issues.
The national Jewish vote for Republican presidential candidates grew from 11 percent in 1992, to 16 percent in 1996, to 19 percent in 2000, to over 25 percent in 2004. Significant pockets of Jewish Republican support had begun to appear in the Orthodox, Persian, and Russian Jewish communities, and future growth was expected among younger Jews, many of whom have experienced sharp antisemitism from the Left on campuses.
Beyond this vote trend, however, lay a story of successful political fundraising. Many of the top donors to the presidential and congressional candidacies of the Jewish community's best friends in Washington, D.C., were affiliated with the RJC and the RJC PAC (Political Action Committee). Interestingly, many credited the 1998 RJC governors trip to Israel, wherein then-Texas governor George W. Bush and General Ariel Sharon shared a famous helicopter tour over the tiny Jewish state, as a signal moment in the formation of the political and ideological bond between the two individuals that would be critical during the very difficult and dangerous period of the second Intifada in Israel, rising antisemitism in Europe, and the War on Terror.
Early in the Bush Administration, the RJC national board embarked on an ambitious plan to grow its grassroots base. From six chapters in 2000, the RJC opened regional offices in California, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania, and had over 21,000 members in 41 chapters by 2005.
With the appearance of President Bush at the RJC 20th anniversary luncheon on September 21, 2005, which honored Bernard Marcus, a founder of Home Depot; Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas hotel magnate; and Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, the RJC had secured itself as an important and effective voice in both Washington and within the American Jewish community. It has assured visibility for Jews–a constituency, which in the last two thirds of the 20th century had been traditionally identified with the Democratic Party–within Republican circles.