Little Hope for Change Seen by Jews

Skeptical Jewish Electorate Still Flocks to Polls for Obama

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By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published November 07, 2012, issue of November 16, 2012.
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In 2012, Jews were supposed to vote on Israel and Medicare.They didn’t.

Jewish political groups spent millions making the case that Mitt Romney would be tougher on Iran or that that Obama would protect Florida seniors from Paul Ryan.

Their efforts didn’t have much of an impact. Obama won re-election with 69% of the Jewish vote, only a few percentage points fewer than he won in 2008.

That’s no surprise. On the ground in Jewish communities in some swing states, the approach of the Jewish political apparatus seemed outdated, even irrelevant. This year, in Jewish communities hit hard by the recession, the story of the Jewish vote seemed to be one of growing disenchantment with an entire political system.

In Florida, where seniors are increasingly destitute, voters said they don’t think that any outcome in the presidential election will help. In Ohio, where formerly middle-class Jewish families are struggling to get by, Jews told the Forward that they had tuned the race out.

“I do not think the election will fix the economic situation in our community,” wrote Barry Silver, 55, a Reform rabbi at a congregation in Lake Worth, Fla., and a vocal Obama supporter, in an email sent days before the vote. “If Obama is elected, the situation will be similar to how it was before unless some outside forces make it better.”

In places like Lake Worth, where the foreclosure rate outpaces even the Florida average, Silver isn’t alone. In conversations on the ground in the final weeks of the campaign, and interviews conducted on the eve of the election, some Jewish voters argued that no political outcome from the presidential race will solve the economic crisis still strangling their communities, a crisis still evident in high unemployment rates and stagnant housing markets.


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