Meet Aaron Keyak, The Orthodox Political Wunderkind Who’s Helping Biden Turn Out The Jewish Vote

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Aaron Keyak stands with Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden at a Jewish Leaders reception at the Naval Observatory Residence in Washington, D.C., Sept. 9, 2015. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Aaron Keyak started out in Democratic Party politics as a kid, stuffing envelopes for campaigns in his native San Francisco. He clearly found his niche early. This week Keyak, 35, was named Jewish engagement director for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

His mission: devise strategies to reach Jewish American voters and convince them that Biden is the best choice in November. It’s a task he says will consume him 24/7. Then, Keyak, an observant Jew, quickly corrected himself.

“Make that 24/6,” he said, accounting for Shabbat.

The issues of Jewish concern range from the U.S.-Israel relationship to ensuring Iran never acquires nuclear weapons to the increase in anti-Semitic violence in the United States. And then there are broader issues such as health care, the economy, racial justice and COVID-19.

“One of the great things about the Jewish community is the wide range of issues we care about,” Keyak said. “It keeps me busy.”

Given the Trump administration’s many policies seen as favorable to Israel, such as relocating the American Embassy to Jerusalem in 2018, Keyak said the Biden campaign cannot take Jewish votes for granted, even though the Jewish vote is traditionally overwhelmingly Democratic.

“We have to campaign like we’re a few points down,” he said, even as national poll averages give Biden a 10-point advantage over Trump. “We have to know we’re doing everything we can to build a broad coalition in the Jewish community and the general public to show that Donald Trump isn’t America.”

Keyak said he doesn’t buy Trump’s professed philo-Semitism, and hasn’t ever since the infamous 2017 neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia, after which the president said there were good people “on both sides.”

“That the most powerful person on Earth would say there are fine people on both sides, and to embolden that hatred, made me feel unsafe in my own country,” Keyak said. “I’m sure he inspired these anti-Semites to feel encouraged. He exposed how fundamentally dangerous he was and remains.”

Keyak contrasts Trump with Biden, stressing what he called “the fundamental sense of decency [Biden] emanates. There are Trump supporters in the Jewish community, and they will have a well-funded effort we will have to combat.”

While Biden has maintained close ties to the Jewish community throughout his decades in politics, he has faced criticism for the Obama administration’s chilly relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and what some saw as too much daylight between the two allies.

Keyak counters by pointing out that the Obama administration passed a $38 billion aid package to Israel and offered unqualified support during outbreaks of war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, including providing technical assistance with the Iron Dome anti-rocket system.

Aaron Keyak (left) at the 2015 soft of launch of Bluelight Strategies, which he cofounded, William Daroff (center) of the Jewish Federations of North America and Bluelight cofounder Steve Rabinowitz. (J Weekly file photo)

“In Joe Biden we have a stalwart supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship,” Keyak affirmed. “When it came to Israel’s security, there was no stronger supporter that Joe Biden, and he speaks out against anti-Semitism clearly and without hesitation.”

Keyak seems to have been born for the job he has with the campaign. His grandfather chaired the state’s Democratic Party, and he remembers his family routinely discussing politics around the Shabbat dinner table. His mother, Vicki, co-founded the Raoul Wallenberg Jewish Democratic Club of San Francisco, and his late father, Jeffrey, served as president of Congregation Adath Israel, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in San Francisco, and sat on the board of the Friends of the Jewish Community Library.

Keyak went from stuffing envelopes to landing his first real campaign job as a precinct captain in San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown’s 1999 victorious reelection campaign. He was given the job even though at the time he was too young to drive.

“They teamed me up with someone with a car,” Keyak recalled. “I went door to door.”

After attending Washington University in St. Louis, where he was active in Jewish and Democratic student organizations, he enjoyed a rise in party politics. He served on the staff of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, and had a stint as interim director of the National Jewish Democratic Council. Also, he has been a contributing opinion writer for the Hill, the Times of Israel, Huffington Post and other outlets.

In 2014, he co-founded Bluelight Strategies, a premier Washington, D.C., public relations firm serving mostly Jewish and progressive institutions, and for which he serves as managing partner (he has taken a leave of absence to serve the Biden campaign).

Keyak, his wife, Avigail Goldgraber, and 3-year-old daughter, Shira, live in the West End neighborhood of Washington, D.C. That will be his home base for the next few months as he tries to make Biden the 46th U.S. president.

Though Biden has, like many Americans, remained in lockdown mode, his campaign has made big strides against an incumbent president, and he’s leading Trump in national polls and in most battleground states. Keyak attributed that to what he calls Biden’s “positive message.”

“During the Obama years, I got to know Joe Biden,” he said. “I’ve seen him in big public events, in smaller events, celebrating Rosh Hashanah at the vice president’s residence. It’s so obvious the genuine connection and understanding he has of the Jewish community. You can tell he gets it in his kishkes.”

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52 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t think anyone in their right mind should vote for Biden.

    What we have seen all over the country, rioting, looting and destruction of businesses will only increase if the Democrats are elected.

    Rule of law is a basic thing we all need, regardless of race.

    Biden himself is a puppet. The old school left of Pelosi, Schumer etc, are slowly fading away, and giving way to the hard left of AOC, Omar, etc, who are strongly anti Israel and court anti semitism as well as anti white racist rhetoric.

    They also want to defund the police. If you want NYC like it was pre Guliani, vote Democrat.

    • There was less rioting, looting, and destruction of business when Obama was President. We have seen it increase under a republican. The other thing that Republican’s do before they finish their presidency is somehow manage to have the economy melt down. Always Democrat’s having to fix the mess the GOP leaves.

      • Well, yes, because you see, Republicans don’t riot, loot and destroy businesses because they lost an election, whereas Democrats do. How that’s supposed to be a point in favor of the latter is anyone’s guess.

        Also, it’s very easy for Democrats to “fix the mess,” if by “fix” you mean, for example, pretending that during their presidencies there’s “funemployment,” while under a Republican it’s a “jobless recovery.” Or claiming that a great economy years after a Democrat left office is due to the ongoing effects of their policies, while a lousy economy during their term is due to their predecessors. Or shoveling huge amounts of cash into “shovel-ready” projects that aren’t anything of the sort.

  2. no Yid should vote for the DemocRATS ‘cuz they are all SOCIALISTS / COMMUNISTS and are already anti-American by now.

    VOTE FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP FOR FOUR MORE YEARS,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    • For the record it was a GOP controlled Senate and a GOP president, which both criticized deficit spending and pretty much any program that had a “socialist” element to it, who recently have passed the largest social program in this country ever. Not just that, which you might excuse as something to do with coronavirus, the GOP after spending 8 years crying bitterly over deficit spending, in the first year that Trump was President, with an economy that was growing strongly (thanks to Obama’s policies) enacted tax reform that increased the deficit counter to all their principles.

      I know which party is the anti-American one… Maybe it is the one led by a President which supports displaying a symbol of racism and is terrified by changing some military base names as erasing our history. For a President who has sought to erase any vestige of Obama’s legacy as much as he could, to suddenly be concerned about history (when it comes to generals of a traitorous rebellion) is ludicrous.

  3. An “Orthodox” Jew, should NEVER vote for a Democrat! And Democrats party and goes against everything the Torah stands for. Whenever the Torah says no, they say yes.

  4. Guys I am huge trump supporter but relax and realize if we lose , Biden won’t be more doom than Obama . Besides in 4 years from now you’ll put ivanka or ted Cruz in the White House

  5. Boy o boy, it will be an absolute joy to visit this site on November 4. All of you realize that your incompetent “leader” has no chance of being reelected, don’t you?…well, I guess if one ignores every fact on the ground, one can still hope. LOL

  6. the guy has a wonder job and Biden could use his help. For a guy who suffers from first stages of dementia, ya gotta hand it to him for a good selection. Or maybe some one else selected him?

  7. He is an Orthodox Jew from left wing liberal San Francisco. The city of SF won. The Jews lost. You can take the Jew out of San Francisco but you can’t take the San Francisco out of the Jew.

  8. This guy is an idiot. Period. Nothing more to say. I mean you want to get Jews to vote for Biden??? Where is your brains?? And the fact that he’s frum I gotta assume he learns some Torah which is supposed to make him smart obviously not working for some reason

  9. Don’t blame rioting and looting that is happening in Trump’s America on Biden. Trump is fully responsible for it. He is running against himself.”If you don’t want what is happening in my America , elect me for another 4 years. ”
    He has failed in bringing Law and Order. He is Mr Law and Order ?! He is Mr chaos and rebellion!
    Pelosi and Schumer are not going anywhere and neither is the Pro Israel policy of the Democratic party.
    If the Republicans didn’t have anyone to hate, there wouldn’t stand for anything.
    Trump has no vision for the next 4 years except for a worsening of the current state of affairs.

    Why Republicans nominated him is beyond me.
    There are so many very good Republican politicians who are not egotistical, narcissistic failures.

    • What a silly comment. Trump’s hand are tied. He doesn’t run the democrat states like NY. If ot were up to him he’d send the national guards. Its you people that yell he can’t do that lest it be dictotorship. Only a warped crooked invdiual would say blacks ounching cops and smashing midtown are Trump-‘s fault. Classic balme the victim style. Don’t blame De-Blassio for giving them credence by opnely going with Rosenbaum ‘s killer , Sharpton yomach shimo and spay painting BLM. No thats Trump’s fault

  10. Some “wunderkind” this Keyak is. He felt unsafe when Trump said there were good people on both sides? Is he, too, a dope who doesn’t think for himself, like most of the left-wing rabble?
    Here is Trump’s statement, with context. You tell me, what was there to frighten the “wunderkind”:

    “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group … There were people in that rally — and I looked the night before — if you look, there were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I’m sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day it looked like they had some rough, bad people — neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them. But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest, and very legally protest.”

  11. We must all vote for the Stable Genius Donald Trump who’s brilliance has stopped the dreaded virus from killing Americans. The virus is just a ploy to keep illegals from crossing the border where the Great wall of Trump isn’t completed. Once the wall is completed we won’t need to scare those murderers and rapists with the virus and it will magically disappear.
    He has also made coal cool again, made our toilets flush better, our showers flow with water and our new dishwashers work with only 1 press of the button.
    Remarkable achievements with more to come.

  12. Imagine a large Jewish presence voted for Biden, do you think it wont help us have our issues addressed in the future? Biden is currently favored to win, don’t we want a foot in the door?

    We need to make sure that political parties don’t take us for granted

  13. Every frum Yid should vote for Trump. He stands for racism, bigotry. ANTI-science, anti-immigrant, women p**** grabbing, tax cheating, dividing the USA, white supremacy. All Torah values, no?

    • Well, since not a single thing on your list is true, then yes, there’s no good reason for frum Jews not to vote for Trump. The alternative, after all, is a party that champions unrestricted abortion (which is indeed against Torah), gay marriage (same thing), booed G-d at their national convention, has anti-Semites – including ones like Sharpton, with Jewish blood on their hands – in leadership positions, etc.

    • Here’s a gob of extreme intelligence! You’re looking for a President with Torah values? Sorry, Moshe Rabbeinu is not on the list of candidates…
      What fools people are! You want a President who will be better for the America that has made a good place for Jews to thrive, not who has “Torah values”.

  14. People need to be educated what this election is all about. It’s not the person, it’s the issues involved. America will no longer be recognizable as a country with any work ethic. Just take, take, take and that’s what the democrats want. They want you to be dependent – ask the black people – those who left the plantation and they will tell you how President Trump improved their lives. Those who don’t want to believe what America stands for will suffer the consequences. All those “askonim” giving us advice could exercise their right to vote but don’t tell me or recommend to me who to vote for. Remember the Hillary recommendation or the bozo mayor, or even the killer governor. You get what you vote for. Take some time to learn the issues.

  15. When Keyak says he is Orthodox, I wonder which denomination. Is it Open Orthodoxy? They’re basically Conservative on steroids — flout halacha and make up their own rulings.

  16. A shameless kapo -to – be.
    A supporter of a party bent on the destruction of the United States as we know it. A macher to help erase our culture , history and freedoms , and historicaly , Jews were always victims in such a revolution..
    A brazen supporter of violence against property, people and citizens black OR white.
    An abettor of a socialist agenda to wipe out our middle class, to which so many of our brethren belong. A collaborator with enemies of Israel and and plain anti Semites. A Jewish traitor who will attempt to smooth – talk other Jews into buying into race/class baiting, and a wipeout of our religious values..
    TRAITOR ! SHOULD YOUR DEMENTED CREEP WIN, MILLIONS WILL BLAME JEWS.

  17. You’re NOT voting for Biden, you’re voting for however is VP. Because Biden will be gone in the first 100 days, the DNC will be making the decisions!

  18. This shmuck should be ashamed of himself. As yidden we support Donald Trump. Not sleepy joe. This guy has a job to do what’s not best for us yidden he should be ashamed of himself.

  19. In order to save this country we don’t have want to vote for Biden.

    To save our country we merely have to show up at the polls and vote against Trump.

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