WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump did what he does frequently: he tweeted something controversial. But this time, he quoted a new Jewish group that almost no one had previously heard of: Jexodus.
Trump had railed against Democrats last week — calling them “anti-Israel” and “anti-Jewish” and reportedly saying they “hate Jewish people” in the wake of Rep. Ilhan Omar’s charge that pro-Israel activists push elected officials to have an “allegiance” to Israel.
Trump and others criticized the Democrats for not passing a resolution condemning anti-Semitism or directly castigating Omar, instead passing a “watered down” House resolution condemning various forms of hate.
This week, he ramped up his critique: Not only are the Democrats bad for Israel and the Jews, but Jews are now abandoning the Democrats as a consequence, he claimed.
“Jewish people are leaving the Democratic Party. We saw a lot of anti-Israel policies start under the Obama Administration, and it got worsts (sic) & worse,” he tweeted, citing Elizabeth Pipko of Jexodus. “There is anti-Semitism in the Democratic Party. They don’t care about Israel or the Jewish people.”
Few people were likely familiar with Pipko or Jexodus when Trump tweeted that out at 9:12 a.m. local time — except for viewers of the president’s favorite morning news program, the conservative Fox and Friends.
Earlier in the morning, Pipko appeared on the show to introduce the new organization for which her title is spokesperson. “We left Egypt,” she told anchors. “And now we’re leaving the Democratic Party.”
Jexodus — a play off of Exodus — aims to pull support away from the Democrats, whom the vast majority of American Jews have long backed. The group is planning an official launch, with events in New York and Florida, in April.
But the focus of the right-wing organization’s prime-time debut revolved around the Omar controversy, which has dominated headlines for the last two weeks.
“The scariest part was not the original anti-Semitism,” Pipko told Fox, referring to Omar’s comments. “It was the lack of leadership coming into play when they were supposed to condemn what had happened and they failed. When the leadership fails to condemn that, they are a party of anti-Semitism.”
Not long after the segment — Fox and Friends airs from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday — the president catapulted awareness of Pipko’s organization with his tweet. Beyond the thrust of her movement, there is something else to endear Pipko to Trump — she was a staffer on his 2016 campaign.
What — or who — is Jexodus?
According to its website, the group is composed of — or designed to cater to — young Jews who are disenchanted with the Democratic Party.
“We are proud Jewish Millennials tired of living in bondage to leftist politics,” its About page explains. “We reject the hypocrisy, anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism of the rising far-left.”
It goes on: “Progressives, Democrats, and far too many old-school Jewish organizations take our support for granted. After all, we’re Jewish, and Jews vote for Democrats.”
It is not clear how Jexodus plans to carry out its mobilization campaign — or even how big it is. Its website only mentions one person associated with the group: Pipko.
She did not respond to a request for comment.
Indeed, the American Jewish vote has historically gone overwhelmingly to Democrats. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won 71 percent of the Jewish vote; in 2012, Barack Obama won 69%, and in 2008 78%; and in 2004, John Kerry won 76%.
Jewish Democrats hit back at Trump’s Tuesday tweet by noting his own unpopularity with the American Jewish community.
“President Trump may think he can present the American people with alternative facts, but these are lies, plain and simple,” said Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America.
“There is no loss of support for Democrats among the Jewish community. Republicans have lost support among Jewish voters since President Trump took office. According to exit polling, support for Trump among the Jewish electorate in 2016 was 24%, while support for Republicans among Jewish voters in 2018 fell to 17%.”
Besides Pipko’s stint in politics during Trump’s 2016 campaign, she has worked as a professional model. According to her biography on the Jexodus website, she grew up in New York City and attended Rabbi Schneier Park East Day School, a traditional Jewish day school on the Upper East Side. As a child, she was a competitive figure skater.
In January 2019, Pipko revealed to the New York Post that she was a full-time staffer for the Trump campaign. She had previously kept that a secret, she said, because she feared it would jeopardize her modeling career.
Since then, she’s spoken to or appeared on a number of right-wing media outlets, including the Daily Caller, Fox & Friends, and the Daily Wire.
Last year, she married her Darren Centinello at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida resort. Centinello currently works on Trump’s reelection campaign.
In the New York Post piece, Pipko suggested she may join him.
“I’m already hoping to take part in the reelection in some capacity,” she said. “And this time, I’m not going to hide it.”