Tom Perez Reaches Out To Jewish Leaders

Days after launching his bid for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Labor Secretary Tom Perez on Wednesday reached out to Jewish community leaders to present his vision for the future of his party and ask for their support, Jewish Insider has learned.

Perez shared his experience working with the Jewish community on an array of domestic issues over the years, but also his warm feelings towards the State of Israel and his strong commitment to its safety and security, according to several participants on the pre-holidays conference call.

“This is really what I call one of those ‘where were you’ moments,” Perez told some 50 U.S. Jewish leaders. “What I have learned throughout my life, as a lifelong Democrat, is that the Jewish community has always had an invaluable place in our party, ever since Harry Truman, and that must never change.”

The Secretary also shared his experience meeting the late Shimon Peres during his recent visit to Israel, saying he considered the former Israeli president as one of his heroes – “Uncle Shimon, to me.”

Perez, an early supporter of Hillary Clinton, is challenging Congressman Keith Ellison, who was considered the favorite after receiving the support of former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

His candidacy comes at a critical time for the Democratic Party as its leadership and supporters are looking to recover from a devastating loss in the 2016 presidential election. The possibility of Ellison heading the DNC into the midterm congressional elections and getting the party ready for the next presidential contest scares the kishkes out of Jewish Democrats. His past comments about Israel and praise of Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan, which he refused to take back, would send major donors a bulk of Jewish voters in battleground states to the Republican Party, party leaders worry. Such a situation could ultimately determine the outcome of the next presidential election and critical nationwide races even before kickoff.

Quoting their mission statement, Perez said he got to know the work of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – which had issued a statement opposing Ellison’s candidacy –  during his time as a special counselor to Senator Ted Kenndey and has since become “near and dear to my heart.”

“I meet so many people, who are my fellow Democrats, who are fretting,” Perez emphasized. “And the them I say, we have got to stop fretting and start fighting because we have got to take this fight to Donald Trump. We have got to articulate our optimistic message of inclusion and opportunity… We need a leader who can share our message with voters in every zip code because too many people who used to be Democrats, frankly, believe that the party left them.”

Perez said he is determined to win the race and stand up to Trump when necessary. “We won’t be bringing spoons to knife fights,” he stated. “We’ve got to bring all our tools.”

Ambassador Norman Eisen, former White House ethics czar, told Jewish Insider that he left the call impressed by Perez’s “mastery of the full spectrum of concerns that he would need to tackle as DNC Chair.”

Eisen, a longtime friend of Perez, said he supports his candidacy due to his “strong support for social justice, for Israel, and for peace and stability in the Middle-East and around the world,” and his experience in managing large, complex organizations “which is essential for the DNC in this challenging time.”

“And as a retired ethics czar, I love that he is not taking contributions from lobbyists,” Eisen added.

Another participant, Ann Lewis, said that as a former political director of the DNC, she thought Perez’s presentation of his values, his experience, and skill set “was right on.”

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