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Republican-Jewish Coalition

In Anthony Weiner’s former district, Jewish voters elected Bob Turner, a Catholic Republican they saw as stronger on Israel than the Orthodox Jewish Democrat

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Bob Turner, at the Ohr Natan congregation of Bukharan Jews in Rego Park, Queens, this summer. (Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images)

David Weprin should have been a shoo-in to replace Anthony Weiner. New York’s 9th Congressional District, which straddles two Jewish enclaves in Central Queens and Southeastern Brooklyn, was gerrymandered for Jewish, Democratic victories. Weprin looked to be a triple threat: a Democrat, an Orthodox Jew, and a veteran New York politician. He’s a state Assemblyman, his father was the Assembly speaker, and his brother is a New York City Councilman. All of that matters in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3 to 1 and where at least one-third of voters are Jewish. The last time a Republican won there was 1920.

But Tuesday night, voters decisively handed the seat to Bob Turner, an Irish Catholic Republican, by a margin of 54-46. At 71, Turner is a retired cable-television executive previously most famous for creating The Jerry Springer Show. His previous political experience was to serve as the GOP’s sacrificial lamb against Weiner in 2010. But Turner defeated the Jewish Democrat because voters believed he was the pro-Israel candidate.

Yes, yes, there were other issues. Though Weprin keeps kosher, attends synagogue daily, and boasts of his countless relatives who live in the Jewish State, he had voted in favor of same-sex marriage, which didn’t sit well among Orthodox Jewish voters. That same constituency might have forgiven support of gay marriage from a more secular Jew like Weiner, but they couldn’t abide someone who they perceived as selling out the faith. The barrage of robocalls to voters from various Orthodox leaders on the matter couldn’t have helped. Nor did endorsements of Turner mixed into Talmud-study groups. Of course, the continuing economic malaise and high unemployment made matters worse. And Weprin wasn’t a strong campaigner. But the issue on voters’ minds was Israel.

**

Ben’s Best Kosher Deli in Rego Park is located on an otherwise typical Queens Boulevard strip of Bukharian Jewish restaurants and pornography stores. The customers I spoke to at the Queens landmark during lunchtime on Election Day had all voted for Anthony Weiner in the past, but this election was different, they explained over corned beef, kreplach, and kishka. Fran Alper, an older woman eating lunch with her husband, told me she was voting for Turner “because Obama is against Israel.” Another geriatric Jewish couple, Carol and Larry Samuels, were even more savagely against Obama’s Israel policy. They were appalled not just that the president wants to return Israel to its 1967 borders, they said, but that the president “refused to take a photo with Benjamin Netanyahu.” (The first part is not quite true—Obama said this summer that an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians should be based upon the 1967 borders, with land swaps—and the second part refers to Netanyahu’s Washington visit in March 2010, which did not include the traditional joint photo op.) Carol said she wanted to physically shake fellow Jews who still voted for Democrats—even as she admitted that she’d previously voted for Weiner and Spitzer.

Up until the last minute, the Weprin campaign tried to win over such voters. At a senior center in the Queens neighborhood of Forest Hills at noon on Election Day, State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, campaigning for the Democrat, offered the weak line that if they wanted to send Obama a message on Israel, they should call the White House. Andrew Hevesi, a Democratic Assemblyman from Queens, tried to turn the elderly crowd against Turner by describing him as a “scary, scary man.” He, along with a full array of Jewish elected officials from the borough, claimed Turner wanted to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and abolish the Department of Education. This parade of horribles culminated when Weprin himself claimed that Turner even wanted to abolish the Department of Agriculture. Never mind that there are no farms, let alone forests, in Forest Hills.

Still, this approach proved effective among senior citizens I spoke to who fondly remembered FDR and relied on their Social Security checks. Others who weren’t motivated by fear of Turner’s “radical Republicanism,” in the words of one voter, explained that they were faithful Democrats who wanted to support the party despite a lackluster candidate. One loyal voter in Forest Hills bragged about voting for Adlai Stevenson from Korea in 1952 and told the volunteer at his door that “he wasn’t voting for Weprin, he was voting for the Democrats.”

**

The question, of course, is what this Republican victory portends for the president in 2012. The Obama camp was quick to dismiss the results of the special election as, well, special. In a statement, Rep. Steve Israel, the Long Islander who serves as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, noted that “special elections are always difficult—they are low turnout, high intensity races” and said he was confident that “the results in NY-09 are not reflective of what will happen in November 2012.”

Others see Turner’s victory as the beginning of the end of the New Deal Coalition: the marriage between Jews and the Democratic Party consummated by Roosevelt 80 years ago. Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf believes Weprin’s defeat signals a major realignment of the Jewish vote. There’s a “new Jewish vote that is observant and communally based,” Sheinkopf told me Monday. Secular liberal Jews are intermarrying and thus, he argues, losing their connection with Israel. Those that remain in the community are more observant and behave politically more like Catholics, Democratic-leaning swing voters, than reliable Democrats as Jews traditionally have been.

Prominent Turner endorser and former New York City Mayor Ed Koch wasn’t looking for a realignment of the Jewish vote, just the opportunity for Jews to make a statement that the “Democratic Party and President Obama [shouldn’t] take Jews for granted.” No single person determined this election more than Koch, who prominently endorsed Turner in July and then served as a crucial surrogate among seniors to refute Democratic charges that Turner wanted to cut Social Security and Medicare. Koch thought a Weprin defeat would force Obama to reassess his views and policies toward Israel.

“The president thinks that Jews just were compensated with Israel to make up for the Holocaust, and Obama doesn’t appreciate that it’s the historic home of the Jewish people going back to Abraham,” Koch told me. But more than appreciating Israel’s historical importance, to Koch, the obstacle to peace is the Palestinian Authority. If Hamas and Fatah don’t want to negotiate, Israel shouldn’t have to negotiate with them. All Obama needs to do is recognize this fact and Koch would return to the Democratic fold, he said.

Unlike Koch, Turner does not seem to have given much thought to U.S. policy in the Middle East. When I interviewed him Tuesday at his campaign headquarters, the Republican thought that the message Jewish voters were sending was merely that Obama should be friendlier toward Israel. Turner fumbled when I asked about specific policy measures that the administration should take to show this friendliness. Finally, he settled on moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, an issue that Koch dismissed as “not a big deal.” Yet, Turner continued to play up Israel as an issue on election night, putting an Israeli flag along with the American flag on stage at his campaign event. But it was clear that his advocacy for the Jewish State was not a political opportunity that he found, but a political opportunity that found him.

David Weprin was not a good candidate. He’s a nebbish-ey mustachioed man with a limp handshake and what appears to be a toupee. After his nonconcession speech last night at a bar in Queens, crowded less because of the press of supporters than because of its cramped size, he was quickly hustled out, lest he have to interact with the media, let alone supporters.

But his failings as a retail politician weren’t what did him in. When the Orthodox Jew loses an election because he can’t attract the pro-Israel vote, something else is going on. It may be a vast shift, or more likely the type of quirk that puts the special in special elections. Either way, for the next year, the Zionist congressman from the Jewish district in Queens will be a devout Catholic from the Rockaways.

CORRECTION, Sept. 20: This article originally dismissed the allegation that Obama refused to take a photo with Netanyahu as “an urban legend with about the same veracity as allegations of the president’s Kenyan citizenship.” While the two men have been photographed together on several occasions, at least one visit by Netanyahu to Washington pointedly did not include any joint photo opportunities. This error has been corrected.

 

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Not Michael says:

“Secular liberal Jews are intermarrying and thus, he argues, losing their connection with Israel”

That makes no sense.

First of all, a lager percentage of Israeli Jews are “secular” than American Jews.

Secondly, intermarriage is not what causes a Jew to be less interested in Israel. While some intermarried Jews are not supporters of Israel, many are. One does not necessarily lead to the other.

Surely he can come up with a more sophisticated and nuanced analysis of the situation.

Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

The Obamanoid fawning sycophants in the media (e.g, Jeff Goldberg, Mark Tracy, and of course Ben Jacobs) are demonstrating that de Nile is more than just a river in Egypt. I suggest that they face the facts of how Obama has repeatedly screwed Israel (Dan Senor had a nice, if incomplete, summary is yesterday’s WSJ, here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904353504576568710341742174.html?mod=djemEditorialPage_h). There is a reason that in repeated Jerusalem Post polls, the percentage of Israelis that feel that Obama is pro-Israel hovers in the 6-12% range. Israelis simply don’t see Obama as pro-Israel and don’t trust him. The call to Cairo while welcome and truly laudatory, does not erase his extensive bad record.

Whether Obama is actually not pro-Israel or simply just incompetent and incapable of learning because of his pathological narcissism and very thin skin, is a distinction without a difference. At this stage of his first term he is going to bend over backwards to accommodate Israel if only to prevent further hemorrhaging of the Jewish vote in the run up to the 2012 elections.

However Obama’s record since **BEFORE** taking office suggests that during a 2nd term when re-election considerations have evaporated, his policies vis a vis Israel will make J Street look like the ZOA in comparison.

HG

J’lem / Efrata

This didn’t seem to be much about Obama and Israel at all. I suspect Weprin’s support of homosexuality didn’t go over well with the ultra-Orthodox (not the modern Orthodox you have pictured here). There were some prominent Haredi rabbis that said that Weprin had to go because of his support of SSM.

Sure, anecdotes of people are all good and fine, but would love to see the results of a poll asking people in the district why they didn’t vote for Weprin, and what their religious affiliation was. It seems this entire “Jews are turning on Obama because of Israel” is getting a lot of steam for absolutely no valid reason.

Bronncohowie says:

This whole mess sounds like the proverbial lemmings following one another over the cliff with Koch leading the way. I grew up in the Bronx and never even met a Republican until I went to college in 1965. To the Jewish people in this district that voted for a GOBP/teabagger, I can only say that you people are WRONG. Stop believing the lies, robo calls and GOBP/teabagger stupidity. Get back to your roots.

Wow! Wouldn’t it be simpler for George Soros to just directly write these articles about how great Obama is? Why bother with this whole phantasm of sockpuppets? Why is the creepy billionaire afraid of signing his own editorials?

As for substance. Orthodox Judaism is the fastest growing religion in the United States. But more importantly, its the youngest. More than half that population is under 10. 2/3 under 18 (i.e. they will more than triple in electoral strength in the next decade or so).

Yet, when George Soros’ sock puppet wants to analyze that community, he goes to a senior center to speak with Korean war vets. Um, this may come as a surprise, but the party of Van Jones, Louis Farrakhan, CAIR, Jeremiah Wright, Faisal Rauf, and Bill Ayers is not your grandfather’s Democratic Party.

Other than those working for J-Street, Media Matters, C.A.P. or otherwise directly or indirectly paid for by the Nazi Banker George Soros – do you know any Jew under 30 who supports Obama? A couple of years on campus while Obama’s boosters are hunting Jews will knock that idiocy out of you.

As for substance: I love your ATTACKWATCH!-style allegations. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XYKRokgX00

It took years for the Indoensian-raised Obama to find his Hawaiian Birth Certificate. And if he ever released his school records, we may learn under what basis he was given his Affirmative Action entry to Columbia (as a African American, or as an Kenyan immigrant?) Until Barry Soetoro released his B.C., it was reasonable to question his place birth. Just like McCain.

By contrast, Obama’s refusal to have a picture taken with the White Devil is undisputed. And, yes, you may not like it, but Obama’s policy is to give the Church of the Holy Speculture and the Temple Mount to the Nazi-like Judenrein Muslonazi KKKaliphate.

Exactly what we would expect from Rev. Jeremiah’s talmid of 20 years.

*(and FYI “talmud groups” are daf yomi. Learn a bit about Judaism, George)

“But it was clear that [Turner's] advocacy for the Jewish State was not a political opportunity that he found, but a political opportunity that found him.”

Nu, sounds like almost every GOP candidate.

So your reporter goes out to analyze presumably to analyze trends in the community. And particularly the Orthodox Community. So the only people he can find are “an older woman eating lunch with her husband”, “another geriatric Jewish couple” an “elderly crowd”, a “senior citizen” voter, a senior citizen who “fondly remembered FDR”, “faithful Democrats”, a “loyal voter” who had voted for Adlai Stevenson in ’52.

Yeah – that gives us a great snapshot of a community where the average age is below Bar Mitzvah.

Did you even talk to one frum Jew in NY-9 for this article?

And FYI – all the food programs: SNAP, WIC, SFSP, etc . . . ., etc . . . are run through the Department of Agriculture. The only thing yummier than ignorance is ignorance laced with arrogance.

But thanks to Obama’s Jeremiah Wright-style economic policies, more people are on the dole than ever! Most poverty in a half-a-Century! Hope+Change! Yay for the Department of Agriculture! If Obama is reelected, pretty soon EVERYONE will be on food stamps! Yay!

Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

For those of you who will deign to sully your keyboards by reading something on the Commentary web site, I strongly suggest reading Jonathin Tobin’s blog post, “Obama, Cairo, and the Jews” (here: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/09/15/obama-israel-cairo-jews/). A thoughtful and intelligent analysis.

hg

J’lem / Efrata

John Brosseau says:

This was a special election. It is not
surprising that only 17% of eligible
voters cast ballots. Not much can be
deduced from that. Interviewing folks
in a restaurant is not a way to get an
accurate picture of the sliver of the
electorate that took part in the choice.
The snarky comments near the end
(nebbishy, limp, etc.) should not appear
in a Jewish publication.

Danielle says:

What kind of a jew can marry a muslim woman? It’s not that I am fond of religious nuts, but Weiner was not supporting Israel in a way that was good for it.

B”H SHANA TOVA U’Mitukah. One sees that the reason for David Weprin’s dismissal was orchestrated by the opposition of those of Charedei leanings. And since when do the Chareidi’s become the beacon of federal enactments while the religious newspapers bash the President – probably under the influence of Rabbis like the North Miami friends who Bush kept out of jail. As we wonder how the brave Obama came to the rescue of Israelis in Cairo and it was him to whom Israel turned not Republican candidates – we know who are friends are, as in real time we gave support to whose sought to slay him/ shamefully.

In March 2011 Obama urged Israelis to engage in self-reflection, invited Jewish community leaders to the White House, and instructing them to “search your souls” about Israel’s dedication to peace.

Does this sound like a friend to Israel to anyone? I mean, it doesn’t take a lot of analysis to understand where Obama’s coming from when his first presidential phone call is to Abbas. A speech in Egypt in 2009. Has he even been to Israel as President? I know he was openly invited last April.

So spare us all the mental gymnastics and contortions about Obama being a great friend to Israel. Spare us Wasserman-Schultz and Axelrod lying to us on behalf of Obama. The man couldn’t care less about Israel’s existence.

The ultra Orthodox, who, on a per capita basis, are among the biggest consumers of public welfare benefits in the country, are going to have to get used to fewer handouts from Uncle Sugar. If the Republicans sweep the House, Senate and Presidency, it will be four more years of Bush tax cuts, cut backs in social programs and increased pressure to scale back future Medicare and Social Security benefits for younger Americans, including the rapidly growing populations of communities such as New Square and Kiryas Joel.

The Republican Party has managed to distract poor religious Jews with the bogus issue of gay marriage. Now these Jews will have to live with the consequences.

The anti gay marriage thing was very big in the orthodox community.

This seems to really get them riled up. Their rabbis threatened them with all sorts of rabbinical decrees if they voted for Weprin.

I always thought Jews were supposed to be smart. Christian conservatives are not our friends and never will be. They will be more than happy to march you to the ovens if they thought it would advance their goals.

neal sturman says:

yeah, rocky we have to live with the consequence of obama rather than a republicans who want to put us back on a sound fiscal policy and the possibility we will have the programs you mentioned not go bankrupt. wise up, boychick!

Awesomely written article. I love how Jacobs sets this out in three brief sections. I hope there’s a bit more to this though than just Turner being more pro-Israel. Hopefully he’ll represent his constituents fairly and honestly. It’s good to see Mayor Koch still has his nerve!

Check out my write-up on this article at http://wp.me/p1O6b1-M

Marvin Diamond says:

What fools some, yes only some seniors become. But Jewish seniors should realize the need for a strong Democratic President, not one tied to the wealthy industrials.
Don’t fall for Republican promises, and don’t fall for false promises from slick talkers.
Go to the synagogue and ask for forgiveness and stand behind our own folks, the Democrats.
Menashe Bar Kalman haLevi.

Why are the Democrats “our own folks?”
They sure aren’t my father’s party.

What a bunch of dumbos. The ultra orthodox think they’ve helped Israel….again.Amazing!

Salem, amen! I’m no die-hard fan of the Republicans either, but today’s Republican Party is no friend to Israel, no friend to the Jews, and no friend to liberty.

More diligent reporting is needed here, and not just by Tablet. The story may be complex and, from a civil society perspective, disconcerting. The Israel element of the story has been highlighted, but the marriage equality issue was the real driver, according to one Orthodox community source active in the election. Consider this from the Five Towns Jewish Times (http://www.5tjt.com):
“We congratulate Mr. Turner and wish him the best success in representing our district,” said Dovid Z. Schwartz, director of the Community Guardians Group (CGG) of Kew Gardens Hills. “We thank Hashem Al-mighty for taking back the honor due to His Name, and we look forward to seeing the corruption and lies that parade as truth get wiped away by greater recognition of the preciousness of Torah.”
The CGG publishes a voter’s guide for the Orthodox Jewish communities. Mr. Schwartz said that when the CGG gave its endorsement to Mr. Turner, he personally relayed to Mr. Turner a message regarding the key matter in the race. None of the issues raised by Mr. Turner’s campaign, from the borders of the state of Israel, to the economy, to the president’s health care plan, would have caused the Orthodox Jewish communities to go against their brother, if it were not for the fact that Mr. Weprin first went against the Torah.
(issue of Thursday, 15 September 2011)

The Leftist bias of the author exudes paragraph after paragraph with snide, sour grapes remarks. Nextbook would gain credibility if it would be politically evenhanded. This article fails in that regard. Doesn’t the endowment that created Nextbook expect you to appeal to the entire spectrum of the Jewish community? Why, here the scoop. A lot of us who used to be Democrats are socially and/or politically conservative. A lot of us did a little homework before the last presidential election and could come to other conclusion than that Obama is a Trojan Horse installed in the White House.

A lot of us did a little homework about Obama’s background and who his best friends have been and could come to NO other conclusion than that Obama is an anti-American, anti-Israel Trojan Horse installed in the White House. Obama’s not running the show. Jews across the Board are waking up to the terrible mistake they made in voting for this inexperienced Marxist tool.

“First of all, a lager percentage of Israeli Jews are “secular” than American Jews.”

Not really. What you call “Reform” in the US would be seen as hardcore secular in Israel. In fact Israel is much much more religious than American Jewry.

he was no jew except maybe at birth. give me a break his voting record etc puts a lie to trying to declare him a jewish issue oriented dem. in so far as jewish issues go he was a useless dud.

A few weeks ago, I got a robo-call from the Republican-Jewish Coalition asking my opinion about Obama’s support for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis that, the call said, would return Israel to its “indefensible” 1967 borders. Not a word about land swaps. Does Israel really need to taint itself with the misrepresentations and outright lies of the US right?

olterigo says:

This fake group the Guardians is just a fake group made up by NOM. Just like them. Why hasn’t anyone heard of that group before? This is how NOM operates. It creates empty shells. The same source from 5 Towns news also said that Turner did not use the letter signed by rabbis, because he figured it would hurt him more. But do facts matter? Not really. Why let facts stand in your way.

Lawrence says:

“I’m their leader, I have to follow them.” Its in Bartletts, look it up. The point is, the leaders follow their constituents, not the other way around. Orthodox Jews, like all Jews, are intelligent and opinionated. Most of them would not have voted for Weprin, with or without rabbis chiming in. And Ben Jacobs is right on one point there. Had Weiner endorsed it, while it still would not have gone over well among the orthodox, it would not have been so much of a cause celebre. But for Weprin to have said he voted for homosexuals BECAUSE he was orthodox made him worse then a liberal, it made him an amharetz. [ignoramous.]

Lawrence says:

“The Republican Party has managed to distract poor religious Jews with the bogus issue of gay marriage.”

I wonder, Rocky, if you’ve ever thought that, maybe, just maybe, perhaps the democrats do the same thing you think the GOP is doing, to poor secualr Jews, with the bogus issue of the “religious right”? Or if they distract poor blacks with the bogus issue of “republican racists”?

You ever thought at all, Rocky?

see the video ( GM Handicap kids )
or ( when car dealers attack obama 2012 )
on youtube.com

2000

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Republican-Jewish Coalition

In Anthony Weiner’s former district, Jewish voters elected Bob Turner, a Catholic Republican they saw as stronger on Israel than the Orthodox Jewish Democrat

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