THE JEWISH VOTE 2004:Election forums in synagogues lead to claims of partisanship

washington (jta) | Some synagogue leaders are complaining that an arm of the Republican Jewish Coalition is holding events supporting President Bush and the Republican Party at their congregations, after claiming they would hold only nonpartisan educational programs about the upcoming election.

Leaders of a synagogue in a Philadelphia suburb say the Jewish Policy Center held what amounted to a pep rally for Bush and the Republican Party in their facility. The leaders say the group did not make clear it was affiliated with the Republican Jewish Coalition when it rented space for the event and asked for the synagogue’s mailing list, and told synagogue leaders the event would be nonpartisan.

A similar event in a Cleveland suburb in September angered several attendees, but synagogue leaders said they knew the group was aligned with the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Event organizers say synagogue leaders and participants should have anticipated what type of program they were getting, since conservative Jewish thinkers like Dennis Prager and Michael Medved were the headline speakers.

The controversy is the latest in what has been a contentious battle to secure Jewish votes in key swing states this election year. Jewish officials from both parties say their opponents have been working to stifle their events and prevent them from promoting their candidate to Jewish voters.

The Jewish Policy Center is the sister organization of the Republican Jewish Coalition. It is designated by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)3 organization, and therefore is forbidden from engaging in partisan political activities.

But attendees say the Jewish Policy Center events included only Republican perspectives and left some congregants angry. Other events planned for swing states have been thwarted after Democrats complained.


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