Come rain, shine or hurricane, the 40th Republican National Convention forged ahead this week, as some 2,286 delegates and nearly as many alternates from across the United States convened in Tampa, Fla.
Among the 172 delegates representing California were a handful of impassioned Republican Jews from the Bay Area.
David Kiachko of San Francisco, who has served for six years on the S.F. Republican County Central Committee, was among them. Kiachko, who works in finance, is also active with the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council. He was representing California’s 12th Congressional District (covering southern parts of San Francisco to Pacifica and San Mateo).
Kiachko said he’s a strong supporter of the Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan ticket in large part because he believes they’ll be better for the economy than President Barack Obama — and in part because of their stance on Israel.
“I think people want leadership right now, and we’re not getting that with a president who hasn’t passed a budget in three years,” Kiachko said by phone from Tampa the morning of Aug. 29. “With regard to Israel, it’s not that Obama is anti-Israel, but I don’t believe he’s too concerned with Israel at all. When he does express concern, it’s electioneering.”
Kiachko said he was pleased to see “quite a few” convention attendees wearing kippahs — a different dynamic than when he’s at home, where being a Republican Jew and a Republican in San Francisco puts him in two distinct minority groups. According to the 2010 U.S. census, San Francisco County has roughly six Democrats for every Republican.
Kiachko, who said the enthusiasm at the convention was “tremendous,” attended an AIPAC-organized panel Aug. 26, before the convention’s official opening ceremonies. There, Romney advisers discussed the plank of their platform titled “Our Unequivocal Support of Israel.”
“It’s clear that Romney and Ryan are really on the same page as a lot of American Jews,” he said. He planned to attend a Republican Jewish Coalition event featuring pro-Israel politicians on Aug. 29.
Sally Zelikovsky, a regional tea party leader who lives in San Rafael, called her visit to the convention an “incredibly uplifting experience.” A Jew whose son is scheduled to have his bar mitzvah next week, she was a delegate from California’s 2nd Congressional District (which covers a huge swath of rural Northern California).
Her vote and Kiachko’s were part of the tally when former Gov. Pete Wilson cast all of the state’s 172 votes for Romney on Aug. 28. Wilson chaired the state’s delegation at the convention.
Zelikovsky said a highlight for her was hearing Rabbi Meir Soloveichik from New York give the convention’s invocation speech on Aug. 27, along with being on the convention floor during speeches by Ann Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Aug. 28.
“It was a privilege to hear [Ann Romney] speak. She just knocked it out of the park,” said Zelikovsky. “It was a very positive, non-political speech on behalf of motherhood and family … it made me feel good to be a parent.” She added that she thought the speech might help attract more women to the Romney campaign. (The presidential nominee was scheduled to speak on the final day of the convention Aug. 30, after j.’s deadline.)
Zelikovsky echoed Kiachko’s statement that the Republican Party’s platform is more in line with Jewish values than many Americans may realize.
“I think Republicans see the American Jewish experience as absolutely consistent with Republican values and principles — a limited government that’s not intrusive, individualism, the chance to optimize who each individual is in a society that values opportunity … and family values as well,” she said.
After her son’s bar mitzvah, Zelikovsky said she will spend the rest of September recruiting and getting ready for NobamaNevada, a door-to-door Republican campaign in Nevada, a swing state, set for Sept. 28-29.
“I’d like to ask more American Jews who are not happy with Obama to reconsider the Republican Party and some of the misconceptions they might have. Reach out and talk to conservative Republican Jews,” she said. “America has been one of the best countries, if not the best country, in the world to Jews and to Israel, and we want to protect that for the future — from generation to generation, l’dor v’dor.”
For Kiachko, who took his 17-year-old son Daniel out of school to attend the convention alongside him, the generational handing down of values was already in full effect.
“He’s having a great time,” Kiachko said. “He’s already interested in politics and in supporting Israel, and I think it’s been quite the experience for him. He was just telling me that he got to meet [Jewish Congressman] Eric Cantor, and how nice he was — they shook hands and chatted for bit. It’s definitely been educational.”