After a season in which Republicans and at least one Democrat invoked Nazis and the Holocaust to characterize political opponents in the health debate, a national Jewish Democratic organization has launched a “pledge campaign” to demand that candidates condemn and refrain from “abusive Holocaust rhetoric and anti-Semitic language.”

The National Jewish Democratic Council is starting with candidates in the Illinois election for U.S. Senate, but organization officials say they plan to expand around the country in the coming weeks.

“In the current toxic political environment, an increasing number of voices have employed inappropriate Holocaust and outright anti-Semitic rhetoric to score political points,” Ira N. Forman, chief executive officer of the council, said in a statement. “At an official House Republican press conference before ‘Tea Party’ activists in November, for example, political rhetoric opposing health insurance reform invoked disgusting Holocaust imagery and outright anti-Semitism. Top political leaders including House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-IN) stood before a crowd that held a banner displaying a stack of dead bodies at Dachau, titled ‘National Socialist Health Care Plan, Dachau, Germany – 1945.’ Yet another sign suggested that ‘Obama takes his orders from the Rothchilds’ [sic].

“This is just one of many vile examples that rabbinic movements and other national organizations have taken a stand against. This is not a partisan issue and such speech is simply not acceptable to the Jewish community. Republican and Democratic candidates alike must disavow such rhetoric. Starting in Illinois and expanding around the country, NJDC will call upon candidates for federal office in 2010 to pledge to renounce anti-Semitic and abusive Holocaust language by any supporter.”

The NJDC release does not mention Rep. Brian Baird, the Washington state Democrat who described outbursts by critics of Democratic health care legislation at town hall meetings last summer as