By Benjamin Schuman-Stoler
According to data based on precincts “with High-Concentration Of Orthodox Jewish Voters,” Orthodox Jews were not only unafraid of Barack Obama, some communities voted for him in larger numbers than they did for John Kerry in 2004.
Shmuel Rosner blogs (and has a nice chart) about the data , compiled by The Public Policy office of the Orthodox Union, at JPost. He gives four explanations for the data:
- Like many Americans, Orthodox Jews thought it was time for the GOP to get its butt kicked.
- The economy has a profound impact on Orthodox families with a lot of children and a lot of expenses.
- Bush was rewarded in 2004 for his friendship toward Israel. McCain wasn’t.
- Sarah Palin was a downer to Jews, some Orthodox included.
Either way, we know that the rumors and the rhetoric swirling around Obama as bad for Israel and bad for Jews didn’t work among this demographic.
By Benjamin Schuman-Stoler
Well, it’s been a few weeks now since Barack Obama was elected, and preliminary indications do not point to a massive restructuring of the fundamental American traditions (besides the ones that said only white people should be president). No, Obama has not nominated Leon Trotsky or Eugene Debs as honorary economic advisers, and former critics are starting to fall in line behind the president-elect.
The Orthodox Union‘s Institute of Public Affairs is one such example. Known for their conservative view on things, the IPA gracefully embraced Obama post-election, and, in a recent post entitled “It Was Only A Matter of Time; We All Love Obama (for) Now”, say that other former critics in the Jewish community have too.
Specifically, they link to an editorial written recently by the editors of The Jewish Press that acknowledges their criticisms of Obama while also overcoming them for a larger purpose:
This page made no bones about our support of Sen. McCain and our discomfort with many of Mr. Obama’s positions and much of his political history. His relationships with some individuals who despise America and Israel and who blame the threats and actions of rogue countries and terrorists on American foreign policy bothered us no end, as did his unconvincing attempts to explain those relationships. We were also made uneasy by his promise to level the international playing field and his blessing the notion of “spreading the wealth” here at home… Continue reading
Moment readers might remember a cover story in our December 2005 issue on Al Franken. Considering how his intense and close Senate race (the most recent count has him losing by all of 204 votes) is all over the news, we decided to post it here for further enjoyment.
By David Paul Kuhn
Al Franken leans over the scattered papers atop his desk. He puffs out his pasty cheeks. His round brown glasses seem slightly too small for his face. His brown eyebrows arch up and he grins like Jack Nicholson’s Joker in Batman. “I gotta tell you,” Franken says to me in his midtown Manhattan office, “I’ve been to Israel, and I didn’t enjoy it.” He chuckles. He knows he’s telling this to a Jewish magazine. “I hate to say that,” he continues. “I support Israel. But when I was there, in 1984, it was very high-pressured. It felt very”—he pauses to find the right word—“tense.”
Al Franken is a caricature of himself, which allows him to talk about serious issues without ever appearing to take himself too seriously. He can shuttle from the solemn to the sardonic as the straight man, often in droll monotone. You may dislike him or think of him as an ideologue—the mirror image of his adversaries, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. The title of a recent book by conservative Bernard Goldberg calls him out: 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken is #37).
Or you may think he’s a hero. With his 1996 book, Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations, the Saturday Night Live alumnus found a new calling: doing unto conservatives as they have done unto others. Until Franken’s foray into Beltway bombast, Continue reading
Everyone is talking about Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s letter to president-elect Barack Obama. The letter, according to Iranian news agency ISNA, congratulates Obama and expresses Ahmadinejad’s wish for real change in US policy towards Iran. Every major newspaper has an emphatic headline for Ahmadinejad’s letter, which reflects the world’s on-edge expectations for the new administration.
We Jews are definitely waiting to see how Obama’s campaign promises play out in Iran. Will Obama shun Ahmadinejad the way President Bush did when the former sent a long-winded letter that many perceived as a tendril of friendlier relations?
And the other great piece of news from world leaders comes out of Italy, where Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called Obama “young, handsome and also tanned.” Of course, it’s a dubious racial reference that has been rightly protested across the globe. But it’s also funny, you have to admit, to hear a foreign leader talk about Obama as if he was a fresh young signing for AC Milan, Berlusconi’s soccer team.
- Under a section called “The Age of Obama,” Ynet has two interesting pieces. One contains a reassuring statement from an adviser to Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (Obama’s not yet official White House chief of staff), and the other quotes Israelis advising patience regarding Obama’s work on Israel: he’ll have to deal with domestic issues first.
- Ha’aretz says the Jewish-African-American bond is as strong as ever and offers yet another recap of Jewish gains in congress.
- Heeb coined a brilliant new term: “Axelrodian“. As opposed to “Rovian,” this term signifies “‘calm,’ ‘mild-mannered’ and ‘judicious.’”
- A Jewish student at George Mason University has garnered fame with his “Mason Votes” project.
- The Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs has their own recap of the election here. They’re happy to see gay marriage bans go through, but disappointed by Washington’s approval of physician assisted suicide.
- This prayer has been making email rounds among American Jews. In it, rabbi Josh Feigelson blesses his sons and compares Obama to King Solomon.
- In case you were just unfreezed from a cryogenic state, Senator Barack Obama was elected president yesterday. He will be America’s first African-American president. I took the (admittedly very amateur) above photos/videos between midnight and 2:30 am this morning in front of the White House. UPDATE: Our apologies, the videos aren’t working. Ignore slides 10 and 11.
- Exit polls show Obama got 78% of the Jewish vote. That’s just about in line with the 76% John Kerry got, the 79% Al Gore got, and the 78% Bill Clinton got in 1996. So much for the theories of Jews transforming into a Republican base.
- Ha’aretz listed 36 Jews who helped shape the election. Amazing: Sheldon Adelson, David Axelrod, Steven Bob and Sam Gordon, Matt Brooks, Mark Broxmeyer, Eric Cantor, Laurie David, Ira Forman, Barney Frank, Malcolm Hoenlein, Cheryl Jacobs, Henry Kissinger, Ed Koch, William Kristol, Sherry Lansing, Ed Lasky, Henry Lehman, Joe Lieberman, Mik Moore and Ari Wallach, Eli Pariser, Martin Peretz, Dennis Prager, Penny Pritzker, Ed Rendell, Denise Rich, Dennis Ross and Dan Kurtzer, Robert Rubin, Dan Shapiro, Sarah Silverman, Alan Solow, Jon Stewart, Barbra Streisand, Robert Wexler, Fred Zeidman
- Israeli President Shimon Peres put aside his own country’s political bickering for long enough to give this enthusiastic congratulation to Obama (via JTA):
“It was an American election and a worldwide choice. I don’t recall any other election that practically all of humanity was following with hope and concern. I want to congratulate the newly elected President: young, fresh, promising, representing a change and introducing change. The changes that I can mention – it is an opportunity to escape the present world crisis and enter into a new era of cooperation, of productive economy and of human solidarity.
“In a way, it is an end of racism. There is no longer any way that any white man can claim superiority, nor any black person feel discrimination. We are the same people, and this election is a great statement to that effect.”
- JTA also listed all the Jewish members of congress now. As Larry mentioned earlier today, Representatives Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and John Adler (D-N.J.) were elected for the first time, while Senators Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) were re-elected. The grand total of 44 (13 Senators and 31 Representatives) can be found here.
- And this just in. Obama has offered the job of White House chief of staff to Rep. Rahm Emmanuel, the son of an Israeli immigrant. Emmanuel served in the IDF and speaks some Hebrew.
Slideshow by me!
More than 200 professors of Jewish studies have joined to form the latest Jews-for-Obama group, reports The Jewish Daily Forward. But the Republican Jewish Coalition poo-poos the new alliance’s potential impact. Jews won’t listen to eggheads, reasons RJC executive director Matt Brooks. “[T]hese elites in many regards just speak for themselves,” he explained to The Forward.
Brooks hits the nail on the head (if you’ll permit a workingman’s metaphor those ivory tower types probably wouldn’t understand): Anyone knows that, say, Jewish seniors in Florida wouldn’t hold much truck with woolly-headed, four-eyed academics. Jews’ disdain for the university sort is legend.
No, as Brooks implies, undecided Jewish voters are much more likely to take political guidance from “real” Americans like Moshe the Plumber and all his buddies at the Nuremberg Sarah Palin rallies. You’ve probably seen them on YouTube—they’re the ones going nuts and shouting “Trotskyist!” when talk turns to Obama’s tax plan.
Granted, no matter whose bubbe or zayde they are, few oldsters worried about Obama are likely to be swayed by comedian Sarah Silverman’s “Great Schlep”, a stunt my (strongly pro-Obama) father found patently insulting. And certainly the Obama campaign would gladly sacrifice a chunk of its record-breaking cash haul (at least, as much as the McCain campaign spent on Sarah Palin’s make-up artist) to anyone who could divine exactly how to reach those elusive Jewish holdouts. But I sense Brooks doesn’t have the answer, either.
Photo by Mike Licht.