Orthodox Jews Find Pick in Santorum

Candidate's Family and Conservatives Values Strike a Chord

Family Man: Even if they don’t share his religion, Orthodox voters appreciate the fact that Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum wears his faith on his sleeve.
getty images
Family Man: Even if they don’t share his religion, Orthodox voters appreciate the fact that Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum wears his faith on his sleeve.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published March 26, 2012, issue of March 30, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

While presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is the pick of the Republican Jewish establishment, Rick Santorum enjoys notable support among Orthodox Jews — a phenomenon that could become more visible with the approach of primaries in states that have large Orthodox populations.

Romney, the front-runner in the Republican primary race, has raised millions from prominent Republican Jews. Though Santorum has fewer Jewish ties, he has Orthodox fans and is planning to appeal to them in New York and in his home state of Pennsylvania.

Orthodox commentators and lobbyists say that Santorum’s focus on social issues is popular in their community and that his values and his personal life resemble their own.

“There’s no doubt that Mr. Santorum’s religious background and conservative religious stances on things like abortion and same-sex marriage resonate well with much of the Orthodox community,” Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for the ultra-Orthodox advocacy group Agudath Israel of America, wrote in an email to the Forward. Santorum’s large family and his disabled daughter, Shafran continued, are “something that endears him as a person to many an Orthodox heart.”

Barbara Ledeen worked for Santorum when he was a senator, serving as a director of coalitions for the Senate Republican Conference. She currently is an unofficial adviser to the Santorum campaign. Ledeen said that the candidate plans to visit Orthodox communities in New York, Pennsylvania and elsewhere when the primaries arrive in those states in late spring.

It’s not clear whether Orthodox Jews could play a deciding role in a presidential race. Of the 6 million Jews in the United States, only 10% are thought to be Orthodox.

After trailing the rest of the Republican field for months, Santorum emerged in March as the most viable alternative to Romney. Santorum, a conservative Catholic, has been vocal about his faith and has built a reputation on his staunch opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion, among other issues.

Though Santorum sponsored Israel-related legislation as a senator that made him popular with Israel advocates, Romney has enjoyed the support of most prominent Jewish Republican donors. Those donors, many of them wealthy secular businessmen, are generally moderate on social issues. In a year when Republicans hope to win a greater proportion of the Jewish vote, Romney’s past as a pro-choice governor and his emphasis on the economy are thought to be a potential attraction for Jewish voters in the general election.

But Santorum’s appeal to the conservative Republican base may have hit home with the Orthodox.

“We haven’t done any polling on that, but what I can say is that Santorum should have very good appeal in the Orthodox community,” said Nathan Diament, director of the Institute for Public Affairs, the advocacy arm of the Orthodox Union. “He’s got a record of being responsive to Orthodox community concerns.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • 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.