South Florida Jews Go to Polls at Last

Election Day Comes to Boca Raton and Delray Beach

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By JTA

Published November 06, 2012.
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“My biggest problem with both parties is the money they spent on this campaign could have floated a Third World country,” Victor Barth said. “It’s a crime.”

Jewish Obama supporters tended to emphasize Obama’s stands on social issues – notably abortion rights and gay rights – as well as his policies toward the poor while dismissing charges that the president has been insufficiently committed to the security of Israel. Romney’s Jewish supporters talked mainly about the Republican’s commitment to Israel and, secondarily, his ability to steer the economy out of the doldrums.

Debbi Klarberg, a Boca Raton resident who described herself as “very pro-Israel,” said she had some reservations about the president on that front – but not enough to change her vote.

“Basically his values represent who I am as a person,” she said. “I guess my beliefs are more in line with Democratic values.”

Orthodox Jews, however, appear more inclined to back Romney over the president, polling suggests. Orthodox voters are believed to have given a majority of their votes to the Republican nominees in the previous two presidential elections.

At a kosher restaurant Monday night in Boca Raton, three Orthodox patrons said they were supporting Romney, largely because of Israel.

“I’m voting for Romney, I’m not hiding it,” said a woman who declined to give her name. “The main thing is Romney is better for Israel than Obama is.”

Eytan Marcus, an Orthodox critical care physician who spent part of his childhood in Israel, said there was little difference substantively between Obama and his predecessors on support for the Jewish state. Rather it was Obama’s subtle favoring of the Arab states that he feared had emboldened them politically.

“He’s enabled the Arab nations,” Marcus said. “He didn’t do anything for Israel, but he strengthened the Arabs. It tips the balance.”

Republicans have hammered the president on the issue of Israel in billboards, print advertisements, mailings and robocalls that seem to have disgusted and fatigued Jewish voters of all persuasions. Even cellphone numbers haven’t been immune this year. And perhaps more pertinent, many voters claim to be ignoring the persuasion efforts.

“I had to take the phone off the hook, I had to turn off the answering machine weeks ago,” said one Jewish voter in Boca, who nevertheless expressed regret that it had cost her the thrill of having Barbra Streisand’s voice on her machine. Streisand is one of several celebrities who recorded calls on behalf of Obama.

As the final day of voting rolled around – Floridians had more than a week to cast their ballots this year – there was a palpable sense of relief that the end was finally in sight. At the Bagel Tree, nearly everyone had cast their votes prior to the actual Election Day. There was one exception, though.

“I’m voting after cards,” Fran Reisfield said. “We’re playing canasta first.”


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