Fireside Chats and $1,000 Online Meetings: Biden and Trump Race for Jewish-American Donors

Trump uses Jerusalem embassy move to lure donors, while $28,000 will get you a virtual seat as co-host of a Biden's ‘fireside chat’ on Tuesday

Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
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U.S. President Donald Trump seen on a screen in Jerusalem during a meeting of a group of Republicans in Israel
U.S. President Donald Trump seen on a screen in Jerusalem during a meeting of a group of Republicans in Israel Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

WASHINGTON – The coronavirus crisis is changing how political campaigns are working ahead of the 2020 election – and what is true in the general political scene is also true within the U.S. Jewish community. In the absence of physical campaign events, which cannot be held because of the pandemic, the campaigns of both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are increasingly relying on technological platforms to reach supporters and raise donations within the Jewish community.

On Tuesday, Biden is scheduled to hold a “Fireside Chat” with supporters in the Jewish community. The event is in essence a “remote” fundraiser, imitating a real-life, closed-door event for supporters who are willing and able to contribute significantly to the campaign. In light of the current situation, though, those supporters will have to suffice with a live video talk from the presumptive Democratic nominee instead of seeing him speak in person.

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Trump’s campaign held its own event for supporters in the Jewish community last week, celebrating the two-year anniversary of the U.S. Embassy in Israel moving to Jerusalem. The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., spoke at the virtual event, as did supportive Republican lawmakers such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Rep. Lee Zeldin (New York) – who is one of only two Jewish Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Journalist Jacob Kornbluh reported at Jewish Insider that the price tag to join the online event was a minimum of $1,000 per person. 

Biden’s event on Tuesday offers those who received invitations several options to contribute to the campaign (according to an online invitation). A contribution of $28,000 will lend them the title of “co-host”; the minimum amount, that of “advocate,” is available for those donating $1,000. Biden’s talk will focus on issues that are important to the American-Jewish community.

When Biden launched his presidential campaign last year, his first speech focused on the violent, neo-Nazi demonstration in Charlottesville in August 2017, and Trump’s reaction to it when he said there were “very fine people” participating in the march. Biden often uses Charlottesville, which was a key moment for the American-Jewish community, as evidence for his claim that November’s election is a “battle for the soul of this nation.” 

A man wearing a face mask as he walks past signs for Joe Biden's 2020 presidential campaign amid the coronavirus outbreak, Alexandria, Virginia, May 11, 2020.Credit: AFP

In past elections, such fundraising events would normally take place in the homes of influential donors. The need to switch to virtual “gatherings” is creating a new kind of challenge for both campaigns. At the same time, the lack of political events taking place physically is making fundraising even more important for campaigns due to the need to invest more resources in advertising – particularly online. 

Trump was supposed to speak at the annual gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas earlier this year. A week before the event, scheduled for mid-March, Trump still insisted he would be attending – as part of the White House’s attempts to portray “business as usual” in the early stages of the outbreak. The event, which was supposed to be hosted at a casino hotel belonging to the RJC’s most important donor, Sheldon Adelson, was eventually canceled because of the coronavirus.