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Beechwood, Ohio — Another ad taken out in the paper by the Defend Israel Movement, which gave its address as a post office box in Israel, likened Obama to Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who appeased Hitler.
Such rancor was largely absent from a Nov. 1 debate organized by the Orthodox Union at Green Road Synagogue, an Orthodox shul in this affluent Cleveland suburb of 12,000. But the caliber of the speakers reflected the importance attached to Ohio by the campaigns: Jack Lew, the White House chief of staff, acting in a personal capacity, argued for Obama, while Tevi Troy, a former deputy secretary of health and human services, made the case for Republican nominee Mitt Romney, whom he now advises.
The surrogates adamantly disagreed on a number of topics. Troy said that Obama sought to “create daylight” between the United States and Israel, while Lew said the president had defended Israel to a degree that few predecessors had and imposed tough sanctions on Iran.
Lew also faulted the Romney campaign for pledging to reduce the deficit without offering specifics.
Troy countered that Obama pursued a “unipartisan” strategy in advancing his own fiscal reforms, preferring to ignore Republican advice and contributions. Lew, in the single instance he raised his voice, vehemently denied the point.
Troy and Lew, however, reserved much of their passion for their wrap-ups, when each spoke of the joys of being an Orthodox Jew serving in a senior government position.
“I enjoyed their personal experiences as Orthodox Jews, their commitment to their work,” said Rebecca Miller, a retiree who attended with her daughter. “It made me proud.”
Outside, as the audience members headed into the night, the intensity returned. A Democrat argued with a few Jewish Republicans who had gathered earlier near the entrance carrying an “Obama, Oy Vey” banner over whether Romney would roll back abortion rights.
Holly Litwin, a teacher at the Conservative movement-affiliated Gross Schechter Day School who attended the debate, said she was exhausted by weeks of robocalls, campaign mailings and postings throughout her suburban Cleveland neighborhood.