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Har Zion Temple was site of a panel discussion organized by a neoconservatives in October 2004.

Not In My Synagogue
Partisan Summits organized at local synagogues.

-- Ira Forman

We had hoped that the days of Republicans playing political games with Jewish synagogues and not-for-profits were over. Apparently they're not.

On June 20, The Hill reported that Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum, who is "aggressively pursuing support from the Jewish community," has scheduled a Jewish Leadership Summit for July 18. This highly political tactic - an event headlining White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and fellow Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter among others - is undoubtedly just another desperate attempt by Santorum to pull the Jewish voting bloc onto his side.

In a true sign of political deviousness, Santorum has roped the Orthodox Union and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) into this recent political charade. And in doing so, he and Republicans are playing games with the tax-deductible status of Jewish not-for-profit organizations.

What is perhaps most offensive about this recent incident is that this isn't the first time Republicans have attempted to turn what Jewish leaders thought were civic programs into highly-political campaign events.

Just last month, Santorum hosted Israeli Knesset Member Natan Sharansky at Haverford College, an event that was advertised as a "discussion" with Santorum and an Israeli leader. The event, however, was actually more of an attempt at "The Best of Rick Santorum" emceed by neo-conservative Dan Pipes.

In a July 7 article in the New York Jewish Week, NJDC Executive Director Ira Forman notes:

"This is a hot election. You show me an event with a star-studded lineup like this, and don't just wink and nod and say it isn't political... [Santorum is] seriously down in the polls. He has calculated what he needs to win from every religious and ethnic voting bloc in the state. This 'leadership forum' and the Sharansky event are both parts of that. Shame on Senator Santorum for putting the Jewish community in this situation."

Is it déjà vu all over again for Pennsylvania Jews? Perhaps.

Less than two years ago, Pennsylvania Jewish leaders were complaining about Republican deception. Prior to the 2004 election, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency wrote:

"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 [Har Zion Temple in Gladwyne] 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."
If Rick Santorum thinks that Pennsylvania Jews will simply overlook his absolutely dismal record on almost every single issue of importance to us - such as separation of church and state and issues of choice - simply because his position on Israel is consistent with virtually every other U.S. Senator, then he is not only disregarding the obvious but is downright delusional.

Ira Forman is the executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council