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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The Jews in these communities are not without hope. But they’re not placing that hope in the political system. Anthony Fratello, 40, a Reform rabbi in Boynton Beach, Fla., wrote that the “fact of the matter is I don’t believe that whoever is elected is going to change much,” in an email days before the race. “I have read the news that suggests that things are on the uptick and will continue that way [through] natural forces. That is what I am putting my faith in, quite frankly.”

Arnold Menzer, 78, a member of Fratello’s synagogue, agreed. “The economic situation is improving slowly and will [continue to do so] whomever gets elected,” he wrote.

A vague faith that unspecified “natural” economic forces will end the ongoing economic crisis probably isn’t what Republican and Democratic operatives hoped American Jews would be bringing with them to polling stations on November 6.

For Republicans, this was supposed to be the year that Obama’s 2009 efforts to push Israel to freeze West Bank settlement growth would take a bite out of the 78% of American Jews who voted Democratic in the last presidential election. Democrats, for their part, were sure that Romney’s selection of Ryan as his running mate would drive wavering Florida Jews back to the Obama camp.

Both sides were wrong. In the end, the Democrats did lose a bit of ground – but not much. National exit polls, plus surveys by Republican and Democratic Jewish groups, all agree that Obama won about 69% of the Jewish vote this cycle. Republicans say that’s down from 78% in 2008, while Democrats maintain that the more accurate 2008 figure is 74%. Either way, it’s not a major shift.

The Republican drive to win Jewish Democrats shifted earnestly into gear in June 2011, when Anthony Weiner resigned from his seat in the House of Representatives. The resignation, brought on by a Tweeted photo of Weiner in his underpants, led to a special election in Queens in which Republican Bob Turner pulled off a shock victory.


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