The New York Times: The Genesis of ‘Jexodus’

The New York Times: The Genesis of ‘Jexodus’ 150 150 Exodus Movement

WASHINGTON — At 23, Elizabeth Pipko has branded herself on social media as a onetime figure skater, a part-time poet and a former Trump campaign aide, an Instagramista whose feed spotlights her Mar-a-Lago wedding and racy swimsuit and lingerie modeling shots.

But when President Trump latched onto Ms. Pipko’s concept of a “Jexodus” — a fledging, and some would say crass, effort by Republicans to woo Jews away from the Democratic Party — even Democratic leaders found themselves defensively responding to a young woman they did not know existed a month ago.

The rise of Ms. Pipko and the notion of a Jexodus — there is no evidence that any such thing is occurring — is an object lesson in how an idea can migrate from a no-name messenger to the broad body politic, through the organ of Fox News and the megaphone of the president’s Twitter account.

“We left Egypt, and now we’re leaving the Democratic Party,” Ms. Pipko declared last week on “Fox & Friends,” the president’s favorite television program, prompting a flurry of tweets about Jexodus from Mr. Trump, and an angry retort from Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the House Democratic leader.

About that exodus: Some 79 percent of Jews voted for Democrats in last year’s midterm elections, according to exit polling data, up from the 71 percent who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and the 69 percent who voted for Barack Obama in 2012. And Jews take a dim view of Mr. Trump, according to a 2018 Gallup poll that found that just 26 percent of Jews approved of the president’s performance, the lowest of any major religious group.

And about that name, Jexodus. “Obviously, it’s a play on Exodus,” Ms. Pipko said on Fox. (There was, of course, an Exodus in the Bible. It involved Jews. So why the J? Is the next step renaming Passover as “Jassover”?)

“The Exodus is the most important master class in redemption in human history, and it is the ground for why we care about all those who are oppressed by slavery,” said Rabbi Jonah Pesner, the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. “To crush that redemptive narrative into the crucible of partisan politics, I find very troubling.”

The Palestinian-American writer Yousef Munayyer took a lighter view. “Jexodus,” he said, reminded him of “a bad Weird Al Yankovic parody” of Bob Marley: “Movement of Jah people.”

Jexodus may have gotten the hint on the name. On Thursday, its leaders announced that they were rebranding it “the Exodus Movement,” an initiative of Red Sea Rising, incorporated by Ms. Pipko as a tax-exempt “social welfare” organization. On Wednesday afternoon, the Jexodus.org website was taken down; a new one, TheExodusMovement.com, went live on Thursday.

But on the mission, Ms. Pipko said she was undeterred. “We’re obviously super-realistic and aware that overwhelmingly, the Jewish people have supported Democrats over the years,” Ms. Pipko said in an interview, though she added, “I love a challenge.”

In a strategy memo shared with The New York Times, she wrote that she intended to use “extensive microtargeting” to find “persuadable Jews” in eight states — Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan and Minnesota — where Jews make up more than 2 percent of the vote in a total of 31 House districts.

The effort comes at a fraught moment for Israel supporters in the Democratic Party. Two freshman Democrats — Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — embrace the boycott-Israel movement and have been fending off charges of anti-Semitism for weeks. The Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee have streamed out a barrage of news releases accusing Democrats of anti-Semitism or coddling anti-Semites.

The Exodus Movement

The Exodus Movement