More Jews are filling Bushs campaign war chest

washington (jta) | When Fred Zeidman raised money in the Jewish community for George W. Bush´s presidential run in 2000, several Jewish supporters asked to give their donations in cash, afraid of having a public record of their transaction.

But this time around, Zeidman is not encountering timid Jews. He said many Jewish donors are eager to leap onto the Bush-Cheney bandwagon.

“The difference is night and day,” said Zeidman, whom Bush appointed as chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council in 2002. “You can´t believe how easy it is.”

Zeidman, a Houston resident who bills himself as a coordinator of Bush support in the Jewish community, said he and other Jewish fund-raisers for Bush say they have had little trouble raising the $200,000 needed to join the “Rangers club” — the top ranking of Bush´s financial backers.

While all accounts seem to suggest that Bush is getting unprecedented financial support in the Jewish community, it is still unclear whether that financial support will translate into votes come November 2004.

Jews traditionally have voted largely for Democratic candidates in national elections, but Republicans are hoping that support for Bush´s foreign policy will mean a much stronger showing than the 19 percent he garnered in 2000.

In the fund-raising realm, several big Republican donors, who contributed millions of dollars in “soft money” before new campaign finance laws were put into effect, also were leaders of the organized Jewish community.

This time around, Bush is raising funds outside the normal Republican Jewish circle, finding a new crop of donors willing to contribute to a candidate they see as fervently pro-Israel.

“I think that Israel, the war on terrorism and homeland defense are all coming together right now,” said Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. He said Jewish donors “see leadership from this president in waging the war on terrorism as a critical thing.”

Already, the RJC says, Jewish donors are poised to give more to Bush coffers than three years ago. Brooks estimated that RJC leadership contributed or raised more than $7 million in 2000, and he expects that number to increase significantly this time around.

While much of that money is coming from Jews who backed Bush in 2000, some of the money is from Democratic converts and new donors.