Rep. Lee Zeldin said he embraces his status as the only Jewish Republican in Congress, telling a voter forum Sunday that it gives him a platform to speak out on issues like rising anti-Semitism and U.S. negotiations with Iran.
"People ask, 'Do you feel a burden?' " Zeldin (R-Shirley) said at a Valley Stream synagogue. "If being the only Jewish Republican is going to give me that opportunity to speak about a stronger, more consistent foreign policy, then I welcome that opportunity."
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About 150 members of Temple Hillel attended the forum, "The Future of the Jewish Vote," held in honor of the congregation's 60th anniversary.
Zeldin was introduced by State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). Also attending were Assembly members. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), Phillip Goldfeder (D-Far Rockaway), Brian Curran (R-Lynbrook) and David McDonough (R-Merrick). Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political consultant, also spoke about the future of the Jewish vote.
The event was planned in the fall, organizer Cindy Grosz said. Since then, a kosher deli in France was attacked, Jewish cemeteries in Europe were desecrated and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Congress last week on Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"Given the timing of world events, this could never be more important," Grosz said.
Zeldin, who represents the East End of Long Island, walked Netanyahu into the congressional chambers.
"Generations from now, I predict, people will be watching the speech from March 3, because of this moment in time," he said. "We're at a moment in our global history where there's a rising tide of anti-Semitism, where people refuse to recognize it even exists."