- The Washington Times - Friday, July 12, 2002

Former Republican presidential hopeful Gary Bauer and Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Daniel Lapin have started an advocacy group, with headquarters in the nation's capital, for conservative Christians and traditional Jews.
"I'd been getting feedback for a long time that many American Jews are rethinking their political alliance to the Democratic Party," Mr. Bauer said in a telephone interview yesterday. "Our goal is to support Israel and defend Christian-Jewish alliances."
The American Alliance of Jews and Christians (AAJC) will rely heavily on the collective public relations machine of a high-powered board of advisers, including author James Dobson, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, the Rev. Pat Robertson, Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship Ministries, film critic Michael Medved and Rabbi David Novak.
The advisers "have all insisted on extensive involvement," Mr. Lapin, president of Toward Tradition, said via telephone yesterday. "They aren't just names on paper; they are all very passionate about this."
But some observers expect the group to be little more than a conservative echo chamber, if not a paper tiger.
"There are a million groups like this," said Eric Alterman, media columnist for the left-wing Nation magazine and MSNBC.com. "The only question is where the money is coming from.
"If they're getting [Richard Mellon] Scaife money, they'll do just fine. If they aren't, they're going to struggle no matter who is in charge."
But Mr. Alterman said the decline of such groups as the Christian Coalition does not mean religious conservatives have lost mainstream political viability.
"I never thought the religious right was going away, but it's amazing to me how quickly people like Falwell have been popping up in the mainstream media since the remarks they made following September 11," he said. "I recently saw Pat Robertson on television as a chief CNN correspondent."
Mr. Bauer said yesterday that the AAJC has requested no grants from foundations such as Mr. Scaife's, and that it will use direct-mail fund-raising to get off the ground.
"We don't have a big pot of money," he said, adding that the organization is receiving its modest start-up funds from Toward Tradition and his own organization.
"There are probably two dozen other efforts out there right now," Mr. Bauer said. "If anything, the number of groups springing up shows the politicians here in Washington how deep the support for Israel goes."
Mr. Lapin said the organization will be distinctive from existing Christian right lobbies such as Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein's 40-million member National Unity Coalition for Israel that aim only to defend Israeli national security.
"We're focusing not on breaking down doctrinal walls between the faiths, but on eliminating centuries of mistrust between Jews and Christians on cultural, social, economic and political issues," he said.
"There's certainly room for them," said Esther Levens, president of the National Unity Coalition. "We need all the help we can get."
Mr. Lapin said the AAJC's values can be summarized as "one nation under God" and that it will seek to eliminate the "schisms and Balkanization of America that have been part of Democratic politics for so long."
"The 9th Circuit Court's ruling [on the Pledge of Allegiance] couldn't have been better timed for us," he said. "We've had an enormous response so far, from the kosher enclaves of Brooklyn to cities like Nashville and Waco."


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