TEANECK, N.J. — It’s a beautiful fall day in this suburban town 10 miles from Manhattan. Benjamin Franklin Middle School is located on a quiet side street, framed by gorgeous trees. Far from the hubbub of contested elections and attack ads, voting this afternoon has the feeling of small town America, what with neighbors greeting neighbors and no lines.
There is also no suspense. Democratic Congressman Steve Rothman is expected to be comfortably reelected, as are the county officials who are also up for re-election. The hotly contested gubernatorial campaign was last year; the town elections, which bring out tensions between the Orthodox and other sections of this diverse town, are held in April.
Speaking to a reporter for a Jewish newspaper, the modern Orthodox Jews of Teaneck are quick to assert that Israel was an important, if not the most important priority when looking at candidates — yet to concede at the same time that the issue didn’t necessarily play a role on the actual ballot.
“My concern is that property taxes are too high,” said one woman who didn’t want to give her name. “I don’t really look at the Israel issue for local races — maybe I should.”
“I like the fact Steve Rothman has a strong Israel voting record,” said Andrew Rhodes, 24. “For most local issues, it’s not the same thing.”
“Support for Israel is very important,” agreed Andy, 55, who declined to give his last name. “That’s the biggest issue.” Besides voting in Bergen County, Andy’s political involvement this year included donations to candidates across the country. And here, “the campaigns I donated to were not because of Israel, though I would not have donated to a candidate which did not support Israel.” He did not, however, donate to pro-Israel political action committees, but rather directly to the campaigns.
Chani, 36, also said Israel was the most important issue. “I’m voting strictly Republican. We need to break this little thing going on in Washington. We need to change the direction. We have a Democratic voice in the House and Senate able to pass whatever they want, regardless of what anyone else thinks.”
Helen, 39, also didn’t want her last name used. (“I don’t want my kids to be kicked out of yeshiva.”) Her concern: “Desperately trying to keep Republicans from taking over the world and wreaking havoc. My big worry is that they’re going to bulldoze their agenda without trying to work with the Democrats.” As for Israel being an issue: “No. What does it have to do with Israel?”