WASHINGTON, D.C. — With all the hoopla of a major campaign event, President Clinton kicked off the National Jewish Democratic Council's quest to help Democrats retake the Congress and hold onto the White House.
Amid chants of "four more years" by 900 cheering Jewish Democrats who raised more than $600,000 on Nov. 2 for the organization's "Making a Difference in '96" campaign, Clinton laid out his administration's accomplishments and goals.
In addition to bolstering Jewish support for Democrats, the NJDC intends to focus part of its efforts during the 1996 election on its reconstituted political action committee, which will allocate funds to candidates.
The reception at the National Museum of Women in the Arts honored the eight Jewish Democratic senators who received, as a group, the NJDC's Hubert Humphrey humanitarian award for leadership in the Jewish community and in the country as a whole.
"They reflect the very best contributions of Jewish Americans to our way of life, as do the Jewish American members of my Cabinet," Clinton said, referring to his four Cabinet members: Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.
Before the reception, NJDC hosted a $7,500-a-plate fund-raising dinner with Clinton for about 100 donors. Almost half the people at the reception hailed from the group's young leadership program.
The NJDC presented Clinton with a tzedakah (charity) box made in 1435 in Eastern Europe.
"I'm very glad that you explained its significance," Clinton said, jokingly. "Otherwise, I was afraid that others would interpret it as something I might as well carry around, since whenever I see you, we seem to be" asking for money.
In between several light-hearted moments, Clinton took some swipes at the Republicans in Congress.
"I have never appreciated the wisdom of the Founding Fathers more than I have since this Republican budget has been working its way through Congress," he said.
"They were really smart, those people who gave the president the veto. They understood the American system," he said to the cheers of the crowd.
The honored senators were Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Barbara Boxer (D-Greenbrae), Dianne Feinstein (D-San Francisco), Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.).