In letter to Maryland rabbis, Hogan vows to stand with Jewish community if elected

The former Maryland governor addressed the rabbis who wrote to Sen. Chris Van Hollen earlier this year warning that his harsh criticism of Israel was alienating Jewish Marylanders

Wade Vandervort/AFP

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 18, 2022.

Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan vowed to be a champion for the Jewish community if elected to the Senate in a letter this week to the more than 70 Maryland rabbis who wrote to Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) earlier this year to warn that the Democrat’s harsh criticism of Israel was alienating Jewish Marylanders.

A group of more than 70 local rabbis penned a memo to Van Hollen in March urging him to reconsider what they characterized as his anti-Israel posture in the months since Oct. 7. The letter accused Maryland’s soon-to-be senior senator of spreading falsehoods about Israel and “divisions” and “isolat[ing]” the Jewish community, despite representing a state with one of the largest Jewish constituencies in the country.

Hogan, the popular former governor who announced his surprise Senate bid for the seat of retiring Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) in February, told the rabbis that he would build on his pro-Israel record if elected, “regardless of the political consequences.”

“You deserve to know where your elected leaders stand. If I have the honor of serving Maryland in the United State Senate, I will continue to stand with you. My commitment to supporting Maryland’s Jewish community and Israel remains unwavering,” Hogan, a Republican, wrote in the letter, obtained exclusively by Jewish Insider. “This is a moment when our leaders must be held accountable for their words and their actions. There are times in history when leaders must stand up for what is right regardless of party affiliation or personal interests.”

“The lessons of history are crystal clear. We must all take a stand in the face of genocidal acts. There is no ‘both sides’ when it comes to the murder, rape, and kidnapping of innocent women and children. There is no room for justification or equivocation. This must not be a partisan issue. This is not about the differences between the right and the left. It’s about the difference between right and wrong,” he continued. 

While the letter did not reference Van Hollen by name, Hogan criticized those who “are demanding that aid be cut off from Israel unless they enact an immediate and unilateral ceasefire.”

“This rhetoric is especially dangerous when it comes from members of Congress – even, and especially, those representing Maryland,” he wrote. “We must reject these reckless attempts to undermine Israel. Of course, none of us want to see death and suffering. We must be clear: the way to achieve a ceasefire is for Hamas leaders to release every single one of the hostages, bring them home, and then they should surrender and be held accountable for their crimes of October 7.”

Van Hollen told JI in a statement at the time of the initial letter that he welcomed “feedback from my constituents” and vowed to continue engaging in discussions on the issue. He insisted that he has supported Israel’s right to defend itself and condemned the Oct. 7 attacks but, “I also believe that a just war must be fought justly. That is why I have continued to express my deep concerns about the actions taken by the Netanyahu government in the face of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”

Hogan, who is facing Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks in November, pointed to his record on matters that are of importance to the Jewish community, including his decision to withdraw from his Harvard fellowships over the university administration’s tepid response to antisemitism on campus and his work as governor to increase funding for security for private and public institutions, including synagogues and Jewish schools, amid an uptick in hate crimes. 

The former governor has been critical of Van Hollen in recent months Hogan told Jewish Insider in April that he was “very concerned” about backsliding support for Israel among Democrats, accusing the Biden administration and Democratic lawmakers of caving to “pressure from the far-left base of their party” at the expense of “an awful lot of Jewish support.”

Jewish constituents in Maryland have grown frustrated with Van Hollen since Oct. 7 over his emergence as one of the Senate’s leading Israel critics, despite representing a state with one of the largest Jewish constituencies in the country. The senator has vocally opposed military aid to Israel without conditions and in February accused Israel of deliberately causing mass starvation in Gaza.

Maryland’s unusually competitive Senate race is shaping up to be a test of how much ground Democrats have lost with the state’s Jewish voters as a result of Van Hollen’s position on Israel. Hogan has leaned into his support for Israel on the campaign trail, accusing Van Hollen of abandoning the Maryland Jewish community and vowing to continue Cardin’s pro-Israel legacy. 

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