Armed with a $200,000 donation from a son of George Soros, the pro-Obama Jewish group that behind The Great Schlep is posed to play a major role this election cycle.
The group, called the Jewish Council for Education and Research, ran a high-profile campaign to send young Jews to lobby their grandparents to vote for Obama in 2008. Now a super PAC, the organization has raised nearly as much so far this cycle as they raised in the entire 2008 campaign.
“We were able to do a lot last time,” said Mik Moore, treasurer of the group, officially known as the Jewish Council for Education and Research. “But there was a lot we didn’t do, and we’re starting a lot earlier.”
In recent weeks, the group received a $200,000 donation from Alexander Soros, the 26-year-old son of the billionaire hedge fund magnate and progressive philanthropist George Soros. Moore said that the group hoped to raise $1 million by the end of the election cycle.
Jewish support for Democrats was high in 2008, with 78% of Jewish voters casting their ballots for Obama. Republican group have already committed significant resources to winning away some of that support, especially in key swing states like Florida. Moore’s group is part of the Democrats’ effort to push back.
In 2008, the JCEC was best known for its viral video featuring Sarah Silverman telling young Jews to talk their grandparents into voting for Obama. “If Barack Obama doesn’t become the next president of the United States, I’m going to blame the Jews,” Silverman threatened, jokingly.
The video was a pitch for young Jews to canvas for Obama in swing states. Moore said that the group plans on launching a similar swing state campaign this year.
But 2012 isn’t 2008, and Moore said that he sees low levels of enthusiasm among some activists involved in his 2008 Great Schlep. Moore said that, though the disenchanted activists still planned to vote for Obama in 2012, they weren’t willing to dedicate time to the campaign.
In addition to organizing travel to swing states, Moore said his group would work to increase enthusiasm among those disaffected 2008 supporters. Moore also said that the group would attack Republicans on issues of Jewish concern.
The group’s tactics and approaches are still being determined. But Moore said that he had been in touch with Sarah Silverman, the ticket to the group’s viral success in 2008.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.