by Dan Slobodkin
During a recent visit to Jerusalem, Eric Cantor, a Republican congressman from Virginia who became Majority Leader in early January, laid tefillin before praying at the Western Wall.
In November his office released a statement saying: “Eric stressed that the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration and what has been, up until this point, one party rule in Washington,” according to a statement from his office. “He made clear that the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other.”
Cantor “reiterated his belief that compromise between Israel and the Palestinians can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties,” according to a statement from his office.
“Eric has a longstanding friendship with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” the statement noted. Later his staff said Cantor would serve as a roadblock to the Obama administration approach, but not when it comes to issues of Middle East diplomacy.
Eric Cantor is the only Jewish Republican member of Congress. One year ago he said the threats leveled against him since he assumed office may be in part to the fact that he is Jewish. “I’ve received threats since I assumed elected office not only because of my position but also because I am Jewish.”
Cantor said then that he was “directly threatened” when someone shot a bullet through the window of his campaign office in Richmond, Virginia. “I’ve received threatening emails,” he continued. “But I will not release them, because I believe such actions will only encourage more to be sent. It is reckless to use these incidents as media vehicles for political gain.”
The Forward claims Cantor’s views on Israel were shaped partly by a personal loss: in 2006 his 16-year-old cousin Daniel Cantor Wultz was killed in a Tel Aviv terror attack while visiting family in Israel. “As an American Jew,” Cantor wrote, describing the tragedy, “I am acutely aware of the existence of evil in the world.”
Eric Cantor, 47, is the highest ranking Jew ever in Congress and the youngest Majority Leader ever. He lives in Richmond, where he attends an Orthodox synagogue and keeps a kosher home.