Ask Phyllis Zemble, the new Eastern Pennsylvania director of the national Jews Choose Trump organization, why she supports President Donald Trump, and she’ll rattle off a litany of offenses by former President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.
The mother of five and grandmother of 13, who is one of just 10 JCT regional directors, cites the Iran deal first and foremost, but has plenty of other gripes with the Democrats.
“Gradually, the traditional values of family, education and hard work were being replaced with single-parent homes, anti-Semitism on college campuses, an increase in city crime and a lower threshold for government welfare,” Zemble said of the Obama presidency. She also noted that one of Obama’s first phone calls to another head of state after his inauguration was to Mahmoud Abbas.
“You know where (Obama’s) allegiance lies, and it was not with Israel,” she said.
Zemble switched parties to vote for Trump in the 2016 presidential election, and will help lead an effort to convince Eastern Pennsylvania voters — Jews and non-Jews alike — to vote Republican this fall.
“By putting my name out there, and showing that I support Donald Trump, maybe I’ll influence a few people to not be afraid to admit their support for Donald Trump,” Zemble said.
She’s aware that he remains largely unpopular with Jewish voters but she’s thankful for the president’s Israel policy, and appreciates his demeanor as well.
The president “speaks with what he’s thinking at the moment. He’s not a trained politician, with advisers in his ear. He says what he feels at the time, and I respect that,” Zemble said.
Zemble, who once served as a Lower Merion Township commissioner, was approached about taking the position by Lori Lowenthal Marcus, a well-known local Israel activist who has been vocal about her support for Trump. Marcus helped found JCT with Carol Greenwald and Richard Allen in July 2016. The three of them now make up the executive committee. As Greenwald notes, the organization is not a PAC, nor a 501(c)(3), and does not accept donations of any sort; it is, as she puts it, “nothing but free speech.”
Indeed, the JCT website, in addition to making the case for Trump’s benefit to American Jews and Israel, largely consists of blog posts by Greenwald or op-eds from jns.org, in addition to photos of Zemble and other JCT members wearing JCT apparel while posing with right-wing media figures.
Greenwald, like Zemble, was a registered Democrat for many years. The former Massachusetts Commissioner of Banks was known as a crusading reformer — The New York Times called her a “maverick bank official” in a 1981 headline. She even wrote a book with an introduction by Ralph Nader (“Banks Are Dangerous to Your Wealth”). But she’s always been deeply committed to Israel and, after 9/11, her politics took a turn. Now, she’s committed to the reelection of Trump, who she believes will win.
“It is our opinion that the record cannot be left to stand that there was no part of the Jewish community that was not enthusiastic and grateful for everything this president has done for the Jews,” Greenwald said. She worries that if the Jewish community does not show gratitude to the president, he’ll adopt the attitude of former Republican official James Baker, who served under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush: “F— ’em, they don’t vote for me anyway.”
“History will treat the Jewish leadership very harshly for their allegiance to a Democratic Party that has abandoned them,” she said.
Zemble’s position with JCT will consist of lobbying local organizations to have her or someone from the board speak to their members about the accomplishments of the Trump administration. For Zemble, it’s a chance to be involved in something she believes in.
“If you see something that’s wrong, you have to correct it,” she said.
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