My First CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) – Feb 22-24, 2018
For years, Shabbos observance and attending CPAC seemed mutually exclusive since so much of what happens there occurs on Friday evening and Saturday. But this year, I discovered that special accommodations were available with Washington DC based Young Jewish Conservatives (YJC) and I, a Co-president of the Michigan Jewish Action Council (www.MJAC.us) was delighted to be able to attend for the first time.
We were able to start networking the evening before CPAC and met Rabbi Yaakov Menken, managing director of another new organization, Coalition for Jewish Values. Later we would be spending much time together and with many other Jews of every persuasion at the YJC Shabbat event.
While exact figures were not available, CPAC attendance numbered somewhere between 10-14,000 people. Conservative young people attended in large number and were favored with premium, seating for the main events and dedicated career training workshops. Turning Point USA, Young America’s Foundation (YAF) and other groups were well represented and featured in some of CPAC’s panel discussions.
The conference included many well-known Conservative speakers. Thursday’s schedule concluded with a casual meet & greet with Ben Shapiro, an Orthodox Jew, considered by many to be the voice of the conservative millennial movement. A frequent “controversial” speaker for YAF on campuses across the nation, Shapiro is a lawyer, author and host of "The Ben Shapiro Show," the top conservative podcast in the nation. The Left smears Shapiro as a hater who commits micro-aggressions, and sometimes successfully shuts down his campus appearances. According to an ADL study, he is the No. 1 target of anti-Semitic attacks aimed at journalists.
On Friday, prior to President Trumps appearance, author, TV & Radio Host, Laura Ingraham, gave one of the most optimistic, upbeat, speeches, focusing on the young conservatives among us. She read three very partisan media quotes about the president. While most thought those quotes were about Trump, they were actually smears against Ronald Reagan!
She said: “Saturday Night Live mocked Reagan. Celebrities said he hated gay people. The intelligentsia opposed Reagan’s tax cuts. They smeared good and patriotic men, like attorney general Ed Meese.…They ultimately derailed Supreme court nominee, Robert Bork. They said President Reagan was going to blow up the world. They called him Ronny Ray Gun. They had no-nukes conferences…. He was gonna start World War III.”
Like Reagan, Trump is mocked, ridiculed and pejoratively branded, by the media, academia and Hollywood. Laura’s message was that the struggle continues from generation to generation and she enjoined, especially the young people, with encouragement not to be discouraged because “ours … is a movement based on individual freedom and liberty, given to us from on High, not from the government, but from G-d,” which stimulated enthusiastic applause.
Ingraham and many others at CPAC believe that with Trump’s Presidential win, we have a leader who says what he thinks — And while his tweets might sometimes use some editing — he in fact is a fighter who believes in our country and has done a great deal in a short time despite the constant barrage of anti-Trump media. President Trump’s accomplishments on the Conservative agenda were a message oft repeated by many of the conference’s speakers.
After President Trump spoke we attended our first pre-Shabbos event, lunch with YJC across from the convention hall. However, we had already observed a surprising number of Jews, identifiable by kippot, swinging tzitzit or flowing paiyot, at the convention center.
Our Shabbat experience, coincided with many CPAC activities. Friday evening, while regular CPAC sessions were finishing up, we had Shabbos candle lighting, followed by evening services plus a traditional Shabbat Kiddush and dinner, for 150 guests.
Saturday, YJC held services with a Kiddush lunch and an address by Conservative talk show host, Mark Levin. We ended an inspiring Shabbat with Mincha, Seudat Shlishit and Maariv followed by Havdala and group pictures.
At CPAC, love of and support for Israel were everywhere. While Jewish progressive organizations are keen to spread a false narrative about President Trump as a hater and the cause of increased anti-Semitic activity, his policies on Israel and Jerusalem show his love and respect for our people and the Jewish homeland as his just concluded meeting with PM Netanyahu demonstrated.
It was a refreshing and invigorating experience to be surrounded by so many people, especially young Jewish adults, who share conservative values and where all are welcomed and treated honorably, with respect. (See: A Hillary Staffer goes to CPAC*)