BOISE, Idaho — There is another layer to Idaho's Lieutenant Governor appearing at a conference held by known white nationalists and anti-Semites.
Last week, the America First Political Action Conference -- or AFPAC -- played a video message for Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin.
AFPAC was organized by Nick Fuentes, a known anti-Semite, Holocaust denier and misogynistic, white-nationalist, who has been kicked off various social media platforms for his view. The conference featured several others who share Fuentes' far-right and anti-Semitic sentiments.
When asked about AFPAC this week, McGeachin claimed to not know anything about Nick Fuentes and asked who cares what Fuentes has to say? Well, plenty of people do, like Idahoans who are Jewish.
Ironically, this other layer of the Lt. Gov. choosing to be apart of the conference has been laid bare by Idaho's Jewish community.
Boise Rabbi Dan Fink has been the leader of Beth Israel Congregation since 1994. He has often been the go-to-guy when it comes to Jewish holidays, traditions and unfortunately, anti-Semitism.
Fink's role might explain why Lt. Gov. McGeachin sent him a letter back in January, asking for his help in defining and dealing with anti-Semitism in the Gem State.
"[McGeachin] would welcome, she wrote, the opportunity to assist with any task force developed to fight anti-Semitism in the City of Boise, as well as throughout the state of Idaho," Fink said.
McGeachin included a letter to sent to Idaho Governor Brad Little in October of 2021 and an interview she did with the Intermountain Christian News as evidence of her sincerity. However, Rabbi Fink said the letter was very vague and it did not appear to lay out any sort of plan.
Instead, it said that if there was ever a task force created, McGeachin would like to be part of it.
Rabbi Fink said his first inclination was to respond in anger, as in the nerve the Lieutenant Governor had to invite him to a conference on anti-Semitism, Fink told KTVB Thursday, when McGeachin courts far-right extremists whose ideology is rooted in anti-Semitism.
However, because the Talmud tells us we should judge people with an inclination towards innocence, Rabbi Fink said he took a breath and a couple days to write a brief response and hand-delivered it to the Lt. Gov.'s office on Jan. 25.
In basic terms, Fink's letter said he appreciated the invitation, but there are some things he needed to talk to McGeachin about first. 10 days passed and Fink had not heard back from Idaho's Lt. Gov.
Fink said he then wrote another letter, this one a little more thoughtful, a little more to the point and a little more critical of McGeachin's original invitation, but still with the invitation to have a conversation about his concerns.
Rabbi Fink said this whole postal correspondence came to a hypocritical head last week.
"There were a number of things about it that troubled me," Fink said. "First and foremost, her invitation was a kind of rant against the political left."
In McGeachin's letter, Rabbi Fink said McGeachin defined anti-Semitism as anyone who was critical of Israel. That is not how Rabbi Fink said he sees this playing out.
"You know the anti-Semitism that we're dealing with in this state is overwhelmingly from far-right white nationalist groups," Fink said.
Failing to mention that faction, Rabbi Fink said McGeachin's letter seemed profoundly unbalanced and political, by also claiming Gov. Little failed to condemn anti-Semitism.
"So, it became very clear to me reading her letter that she was really looking to use anti-Semitism as a kind of wedge issue in her political campaign against the governor," Fink said. "So, I wrote all of that in my letter. I sent it off and hear back nothing for a month."
Then, Rabbi Fink received this in the mail -- a longer letter from the Lt. Gov., but one basically asking the same thing again. Fink said it asked if he and McGeachin could join together to define, expose and call out anti-Semitism in Idaho.
"But it was also completely tone deaf to the concerns that I had raised in my letter to her," Fink added.
The letter arrived from McGeachin Feb. 25 -- the same day McGeachin appeared virtually at AFPAC.
"Good evening America First Conference attendees, I'm Janice McGeachin, Lieutenant Governor of the great state of Idaho," McGeachin said to start her AFPAC speech. "I'm sorry I can't be there in person with you."
"You know the contrast between the act of sending a letter to a Rabbi to say 'I want to help you combat antisemitism,' and going to speak to this group, was so incredibly jarring," Fink said. "The dissonance was so extraordinary. I both hurt and at some level, had to laugh because it was surreal."
KTVB's Brian Holmes asked Rabbi Fink what he believed McGeachin's intentions were and what the letter was all about.
"You know there's a teaching in my tradition, which is to say what you do counts a lot more than what you say, you know? To me, her invitation is farcical, because we judge people by what they do in the world and you are the company that you keep," Fink said. "She wasn't coerced to sending a message to that group and it was either unbelievably ignorant to not know who they were, or she knew who they were -- which is what I strongly suspect, because who accepts an invitation to deliver a message to a group without having any idea who they are?
"The word I would use is 'chutzpah,' that you have the chutzpah to reach out to me and say 'help me on anti-Semitism,' while going out and glorying in the presence of anti-Semites is extraordinary. That's how this struck me."
Rabbi Fink said he has not heard from the Lt. Gov. since he received that letter Feb. 25. -- since her appearance at AFPAC.
If McGeachin does reach out, Fink said he would ask her to sit down and have a real conversation about actual anti-Semitism, the kind that explains why on Friday nights and Saturday mornings, when people show up to synagogue -- or on Wednesday evenings for school, why they have hired an armed, off-duty Boise Police officer for security.
Rabbi Fink said they do it because the reality is in the United States of America right now is Jewish institutions have been under attack, with those attacks amplified over the last few years.
He said if McGeachin would listen and truly hear the conversation, she would not think twice about going to a conference where she appears to be courting white nationalists, such as AFPAC.
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