WASHINGTON — Longtime pro-Israel Democratic operative Steve Rabinowitz is launching a new firm with a new business partner after the contentious break up last year with his former partner.
Rabinowitz and Aaron Keyak, who left his job as Rep. Jerrold Nadler's communications director to launch the new venture, will announce the birth of their communications firm Bluelight Strategies on Monday. Bluelight will officially begin in its new iteration in January. The announcement will take place at the annual "Latkes and Vodkas" holiday party, which holds a certain symbolic significance: It's the 20th anniversary of the event which used to be held by Rabinowitz and Matt Dorf, his former partner who broke off to start his own firm last year. Rabinowitz kept the party as part of the split.
"It's time to hit refresh," Rabinowitz told BuzzFeed News on Sunday. "I'm thrilled to have Aaron coming on, we've worked together more than once before," he said, citing their work on "The Hub," an operation during the 2012 campaign designed to keep Jewish voters on the Democrats' side during the election.
The Hub was "such a success, I feel like we're getting the band back together," Rabinowitz said.
"Bringing on Aaron Keyak to his new venture, Bluelight Strategies is a smart move on Steve's part and will bring great energy to this new project," Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement, citing Keyak's work on Capitol Hill and the Hub as well as the National Jewish Democratic Council. "I look forward to the next set of contributions Steve and Aaron will bring to liberal causes and the faith-based community."
Of the name's significance, Rabinowitz said, "The blue is progressive politics in America, and you know, the Jews can think it's Jewish too if they want."
The firm will focus on progressive issues, both foreign policy and otherwise. Rabinowitz and Keyak say their clients include environmental clients in North Carolina and upstate New York, as well as the Jewish Federations of North America and its Jewish community relations councils, a university in Israel, the Times of Israel, the Israel Policy Forum, and the Religious Action Center, Reform Judaism's political arm.
"Look, there's no getting around the fact that half the staff and half the clients walked away with Matt," Rabinowitz said. "But we have a bunch of old clients, a bunch of new clients, old staff, new staff, brand new staff."
It's an "exciting opportunity to start fresh, to start anew," Rabinowitz said. "And to not have it be all about me. It doesn't need to be Rabinowitz Communications anymore."
"Or Rabinowitz-Keyak," Keyak said.
Bluelight is also gearing up for Hillary Clinton's presumptive 2016 presidential effort. Rabinowitz is a veteran of Bill Clinton's White House and earlier this year launched "Jewish Americans Ready for Hillary," a branch of the larger Ready for Hillary draft-Clinton campaign.
"Steve is a longtime member of Clintonland," Keyak said. "And so when it comes to the various communities we're involved in, especially in the Jewish and pro-Israel communities, we're going to be all about Hillaryland."
"They're good partners, and they know the community," Ann Lewis, a former Clinton White House communications director and senior adviser to Clinton's 2008 campaign. "And that can be very valuable because sometimes people come along who want to tell you they do, but Steve and Aaron both have a deep experience with a wide range, both of organizations and again of individuals."
Bluelight is launching in a fraught time for pro-Israel progressives, as recent polls show signs of a partisan divide on Israel and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict looks farther away than ever after this past year's failed peace talks led by the Obama administration. But the pair are convinced that the Jewish vote will remain Democratic.
"I hear this meme every two years," Rabinowitz said. "Every two years my Republican Jewish friends say this is the year that Jews are going to tilt Republican or tilt politically conservative. And then every subsequent November, it turns out not to be true."
"Jews are Democrats, and they're going to be again in two years, and they just are," Rabinowitz said.
"As Democrats we're going to take no back seat to Republicans on really any issue, but especially within the pro-Israel community," Keyak said.
"Some dynamics are changing; most notably, a growing, vigorous debate, with articulate conservative voices," Lewis said in an email. "(We are not just people of the book, but the website.) But by Election Day, majority of Jewish voters will support Democratic candidates."