Eric Cantor is the highest ranking Jewish member of Congress in history. He is also the last non-Christian Republican in Congress. He became the only Jewish Republican in either House when Arlen Specter switched parties in 2009.
This aspect of Cantor's defeat is another indicator that the Republican party is becoming narrower. I read article after article about how this ultra-Conservative congressman was defeated for not being conservative enough on immigration. But in a country where diversity is increasing, where the current Congress includes its first Hindu, first Buddhist in the Senate, first member listing her religion as "none," and increased its Muslim members to two, the Republicans just keep showing how out of touch they are.
Republicans have been courting the Jewish community with strong, almost militant, support for Israel, including a strong anti-Iran policy, and opposition to any ceding of land to the Palestinians. For the most part this comes from their push to endless war, but it is also driven by the religious right's belief that the ingathering of the Jews is necessary for the end of days. Cantor gave them credibility with Jewish groups and was able to act as a liaison to the Jewish community.
It would have been ironic indeed if the first Jewish Speaker of the House had been a Republican, since most Jews oppose his ideas on almost everything else, but it would have been historic nonetheless.
I have generally found Cantor an embarrassment. Jews feel responsible for each other, and so we blush when other Jews mess up. I'll be glad to see him go, and I imagine so will the other Jews in Congress.