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Fears Stalk Voters in Manhattan’s Silk Stocking District

UPPER EAST SIDE, NEW YORK CITY — Fear — mostly of the Tea Party, but not only — is evident on this election day on Manhattan’s wealthy Upper East Side, home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the television show “Gossip Girl.”

The voting site in Hunter College’s School of Social Work was a sedate scene in midday, though some elderly socialites in mink jackets had trouble opening the building’s heavy doors. Among the local voters were Jews from the area, whose nearby institutions include the prominent Orthodox Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and the venerable Reform Temple Emanu-El, the largest Jewish house of worship in the country. The top choice before them was between gubernatorial candidates Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat and the state’s current Attorney General, and Tea Partier Carl Paladino of Buffalo.

Joyce Naparstek, a 75-year-old retiree who formerly worked in development, is frightened of this election’s insurgency: “I’m afraid of the Tea Party and, excuse me, the crazies,” she said. “The national concern of mine is Israel. We have to stay the course and try to work on the peace process with Netanyahu.” Now, as opposed to in 2008, she worries that “the country is not going in the right direction.”

Naperstek recently came back from a trip to Berlin, Germany, where she explored the history of the Jewish people. “That opens your eyes,” she said. “Jewish people, for all they’ve been through, have a sense of compassion and understanding. That’s why we think liberally.”

Likewise, George Lazarus, a 64-year-old pediatrician and Temple Emanu-El congregant, is worried about “trying to prevent crazy people from taking office.” Otherwise, he’s worried about the economy.

Another voter declined to give his name because he was scared that “the Arabs will kill me.” This Moroccan middle-aged Jew, a denizen of 78th street, fears that “the country is going Islamist” and “the Democrats, by killing the country with more taxes, are making us poor.” He voted straight Republican this year. But even with his party poised to take over the House, he is “sad.” That’s because he thinks that Republicans, once in office, will veer toward the center to achieve reelection.

Judith Raymo, who teaches about gender inequity in higher education at Columbia University’s Teachers College, is worried about misinformation about what Barack Obama has done in office. “I’m an Independent, but I voted straight Democrat,” she said. “I was determined to show that there are people who care about what’s been done in the last two years.”


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