Jewish Democrats Rally Around Obama

By Jennifer Siegel

Published June 12, 2008, issue of June 20, 2008.
  • Print
  • Share Share

As the general election campaign gets under way, some Jewish liberals say they are working to ensure that 2008 doesn’t go down in history as the year that Barack Obama got “schvitz-boated.”

PINNING THEIR HOPES: Jewish Obama supporters have taken to wearing their allegiances on their sleeves — and lapels.
PINNING THEIR HOPES: Jewish Obama supporters have taken to wearing their allegiances on their sleeves — and lapels.

A small, grass-roots-powered group of Jewish Democrats called Jews for Obama is quietly rolling out an independent campaign to bolster its party’s presumptive presidential nominee. With a dozen board members but limited money and manpower, the group hopes to use the Internet to lance Republican attacks on Obama and to help the Illinois senator win over Jewish voters.

The new group, which is unusual in the scope of its efforts, has a fundraising goal of $500,000 with a gala planned for New York in September and current outreach efforts to major donors.

“In 2004, [Senator John] Kerry did not answer quickly enough and strongly enough when he was attacked,” said Gidon D. Remba, one of the group’s founders, in an interview with the Forward. Referring to the now-infamous ads run against Kerry in 2004 by the independent group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Remba said his current effort is needed because Obama is, like Kerry, being “swift-boated — or, as some like to call it, ‘schvitz-boated,’— every day.”

Remba’s group is one of several efforts aimed at shoring up Obama’s support in the Jewish community, pockets of which remain jittery about the senator’s policies in the Middle East, as well as his past association with his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. In addition to the Obama campaign itself, which has aggressively courted Jewish voters in recent weeks, the Illinois senator will also get a boost from outreach efforts undertaken by the Democratic National Committee and the National Jewish Democratic Council, a not-for-profit group independent of the party.

Remba’s effort is not the only grass-roots “Jews for Obama” campaign to spring up. Earlier this year, a separate “Jews for Obama” group organized by environmental policy expert Ruth Greenspan Bell posted a letter in support of the Illinois senator on the Internet during the primary campaign. On the social networking site Facebook, a group called Jews for Obama has attracted 1,224 members as of June 11. The group’s message board, which is filled mostly with critiques of Obama’s policy on the Middle East, shows the task ahead for the Jewish supporters given the often vocal opposition to Obama in the Jewish community. (At the current time, a “Jews Against Obama” Web site turns up as the top entry under a Google search for the term “Jews for Obama.”)

The latest Jews for Obama group, led by Remba, includes a board of directors and an advisory board involving more than two-dozen people from all four major Jewish streams. Remba, who is serving as the group’s president and executive director, is a veteran Israel peace activist who most recently served as the national executive director of the dovish group Ameinu, formerly known as the Labor Zionist Alliance. Advisers to the group include Reform Rabbi Andy Bachman of Brooklyn’s Congregation Beth Elohim, as well as Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, who came to personally know Obama as the longtime leader of KAM Isaiah Israel, a congregation in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood.

Remba is hoping for impact on the Internet, fueled by supporters (or detractors) linking to his site or forwarding on his weekly e-newsletters. The current core of the effort is a rapid response team composed of a half-dozen volunteers. The team posts fact sheets that visitors to the site (www.jewsforobama.com) can e-mail to their friends and family with the click of a button. Over the coming month, Remba said, the group will attempt to capture broader attention with the release of “catchy, clever and humorous” Internet ads supporting the senator.

While it remains to be seen whether or not the Jews for Obama Web site will take off — a recently posted statement backing the senator has, so far, garnered fewer than 1,000 endorsements over several days — one of the organizers sees momentum building for the project.

Jordan Pollack, a professor of computer science at Brandeis University who is serving as the project’s chief technology officer, said that he has recently started to receive “hundreds” of requests per day for free “Jews for Obama” bumper stickers and pins after a link to the site showed up on the Web site getfreestuff.com. One of the most recent requests, moreover, came from a producer from Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” who asked for the goods for a potential bit involving elderly voters.

“I sent him some of our posters and buttons and bumper stickers,” Pollack said. “He said he was taking off for Florida.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.