Reality ‘Trumps’ preference for much of Republican Jewish Coalition


Joel Geiderman’s view of a potential Donald Trump presidency has shifted since March.

Two months ago, in an op-ed in these pages, Geiderman — the California chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and co-chair of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Emergency Department — wrote, “I would Dump Trump. If it came down to the choice between Hillary Clinton (another terribly flawed candidate) and him, I would either not vote at all or support a third-party conservative candidate, if that were an option.”

But last week, in an email to the Jewish Journal, Geiderman wrote that he was “encouraged but not yet convinced” by developments since March. Geiderman said Trump has “moderated his speech,” “made peace with some of the people he offended” and acted more “presidential.”

And Clinton, he said, has “moved further to the left, from offering free college for all, single-payer health care, to attacking Wall Street and banks.” 

“To be honest, for me, the balance has been tilted,” Geiderman said, and without saying outright that he plans to vote for Trump in November, he indicated he’s in a place similar to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. The Wisconsin Republican said early this month that he’s “just not ready” to endorse Trump, but has since met with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and wants the “party unified so that we are full strength in the fall.”

Is Geiderman’s movement in the past nine weeks representative of a shift among conservatives once-steadfast members of the #NeverTrump crowd? Or are most Republicans, regardless of who they supported in the primaries, already rallying behind their party’s presumptive nominee simply because, well, he’s not Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders?

“As this race materializes, and as we move through this process, and you really get people focused on a binary choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I think you’ll see a lot of the folks who have heretofore been critical coming around,” Matt Brooks, executive director of the RJC, said in an interview.

After Ohio Gov. John Kasich suspended his campaign on May 4 — one day after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz suspended his — the RJC released a statement congratulating Trump, but that was not so much an endorsement of him as it was a comment on the prospects of a Clinton presidency, which the RJC said would “compromise our national security, weaken our economy and further strain our relationship with our greatest ally, Israel.”

In December, Trump generated controversy when he spoke at an RJC forum in Washington, D.C., comparing the many businesspeople in the room to him, specifically in regards to negotiation skills. “Is there anybody that doesn’t renegotiate deals in this room?” Trump said, evoking what critics said was a classical Jewish stereotype. “This room negotiates them, perhaps more than any other room I’ve ever spoken in.” 

He also said, “You’re not gonna support me because I don’t want your money. You want to control your politicians. That’s fine.”

RJC spokesman Mark McNulty rejected criticisms that Trump’s comments were anti-Semitic. The Anti-Defamation League, which has been highly critical of some of Trump’s comments during his campaign, also did not believe his remarks to the RJC were anti-Semitic.

In February, Trump was strongly criticized by many Israel supporters when he said he would try to be “neutral” between the Israelis and Palestinians. But the presumed Republican nominee has since taken a decidedly pro-Israel tack, particularly during his address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s Policy Conference in March, which many Jewish Republicans were pleased with.

“His speech at AIPAC was terrific,” Geiderman said. “He would probably be very good for Israel. The person I have concerns about is Mrs. Clinton.” Geiderman specifically criticized the former secretary of state’s support for President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, and “her attempt to punish Israel for extending some settlements contiguous to existing settlements.”

For some, like Florida businessman and RJC board member Marc Goldman, however, support for Trump is stronger than just party default. “There’s more reasons to vote for Trump than he’s just not a Democrat. He’s not out of the government,” said Goldman, who initially supported Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. “Anyone who’s been in business knows … whatever the product, service or what have you that you’re providing, if you’re not providing it in a way that is satisfactory to your customers, and profitable, then the inherent discipline is: You go out of business — so you’re living in reality.”

“I think he has a chance to be very good, and I think people are ready for someone who’s going to come in and break up some of that status quo,” said Dr. Richard Roberts, a prominent Republican donor in New Jersey, who also initially backed Walker. “Trump is now reaching out to experts in a lot of different areas, and that’s a big relief to know that he’s doing that.”

In mid-March, Roberts told Jewish Insider he was “dismayed” by a conference call he was invited to with top Republican donors in advance of the Florida primary. The group — which included Hewlett Packard President and CEO Meg Whitman, Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts, and hedge fund manager and RJC board member Paul Singer — was coordinating an anti-Trump effort, which Roberts characterized as a “disingenuous” attempt to “deny the groundswell of grass-roots voters their overwhelming choice.”

The RJC’s May 4 statement also focused on maintaining Republican majorities in the House and Senate, which most conservatives, #NeverTrump ones included, believe is important whether or not Trump is on the top of the ticket.

“We will support the nominee of the Republican Party,” said Ronald Krongold, a Florida real estate developer who initially supported the candidacy of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Asked whether the RJC will put its focus on Senate and House races more than it did previous election cycles, he said, “I believe it will be the same as it is in any presidential year.”

Brooks declined to answer the same question, saying he doesn’t “want to telegraph to the Democrats our playbook.”

Singer, who supported Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, has said he will not back Trump or Clinton. Politico published a piece May 16 saying “plenty” of RJC board members, in addition to Singer, will not get involved in the presidential race and will instead focus on down-ballot races.

Geiderman, when asked whether he sees a #NeverTrump divide among Jewish Republicans, as there appears to be among conservative pundits, said, “There is no actual divide.”

In late April, at an RJC’s board meeting in Las Vegas, Geiderman said RJC members “expressed different opinions” and “engaged in thoughtful conversation.”

“But that was during the primaries,” he said. “In the end, I think most will work hard to elect the Republican candidate. It’s too important to hold onto the Supreme Court and the Senate.”

Geiderman, who is scheduled to be honored by the RJC on Sept. 25 at the Beverly Wilshire, said that after he penned his anti-Trump op-ed in March, he offered to step aside as honoree if his words would present a conflict. But he was encouraged to remain the honoree. “Republicans have a big tent and value a variety of opinions. No one retaliated against me or spoke out against me,” Geiderman said. 

“There is no party orthodoxy.”

The space between the individual and the government


Is it the individual citizen who is more important in a free society, or is it the government? It’s easy to see this as the philosophical choice during this election season: One side seems to favor the liberty of the individual, while the other favors the primacy of the government.

But apparently it’s not so simple. 

In a provocative essay in the Weekly Standard titled “The Real Debate,” conservative writer Yuval Levin challenges the individual-versus-government cliché by explaining that “what matters most about society happens in the space between those two, and that creating, sustaining, and protecting that space is a prime purpose of government.”

He adds: “The real debate forced upon us by the Obama years — the underlying disagreement to which the two parties are drawn despite themselves — is in fact about the nature of that intermediate space, and of the mediating institutions that occupy it: the family, civil society, and the private economy.”

The problem, according to Levin, is that these mediating institutions have become a source of bitter ideological conflict. As he sees it, the bigger government becomes, the more it threatens the health of these institutions that live in the middle space.

“Progressives in America have always viewed those institutions with suspicion,” he writes, and have sought to empower the government to put in place “public programs and policies motivated by a single, cohesive understanding of the public interest.”   

Conservatives have resisted such a gross rationalization of society, Levin writes, and “insisted that local knowledge channeled by evolving social institutions — from civic and fraternal groups to traditional religious establishments, to charitable enterprises and complex markets — will make for better material outcomes and a better common life. 

“The life of a society consists of more than moving resources around, and what happens in that space between the individual and the government is vital — at least as much a matter of character formation as of material provision and wealth creation. Moral individualism mixed with economic collectivism only feels like freedom because it liberates people from responsibility in both arenas.”

But real freedom, Levin says, is “only possible with real responsibility. And real responsibility is only possible when you depend upon, and are depended upon by, people you know. It is, in other words, only possible in precisely that space between the individual and the state.”

As it turns out, I got a taste of that “intermediate space” last Sunday night in my neighborhood. 

The occasion was a community wedding at the Modern Orthodox YULA Girls High School.

Two months ago, members of the YULA community heard that one of their former students wanted to get married but couldn’t afford a wedding.

So, the head of school, Rabbi Abraham Lieberman, who always dreamed of using the school’s grounds for a simcha, and the dean of students, Brigitte Wintner, decided the school would “donate” the wedding. (I’m smelling a screenplay.)

Everyone in the community chipped in. Services like catering, flowers, rentals, bar, photographer, musicians, etc. all were either donated or offered at enormous discounts. YULA students, past and present, ran around setting everything up on the big day.

In the courtyard where my oldest daughter spent four years hanging out with her friends, there were now cocktail tables, a bar and waiters passing out appetizers.

In the parking lot where I would park when I had meetings with the head of school, there were multiple rows of folding chairs, a small chuppah and more rabbis than I could count.

On the far side of the lot was a tent covering enough tables to accommodate 250 guests.

Neighbors popped their heads out to discover there was an actual wedding happening on their street.

As I witnessed the ceremony, and saw more than a few grateful tears on the faces of family members, it struck me that maybe this is what Levin meant by the “space” between the individual and the government.

Yes, both the individual and the government are vitally important, but perhaps even more vital is the sacred space between the two.

In the Jewish world, this space is dominated by one word: community.

No matter how compassionate a government is, it could never create this community for us.

This community is created by the teaching of Jewish values and the living of those values in everyday life. One of those values is a sense of obligation toward other members of the community. This is not a theoretical or global value, it’s deeply local. 

It’s a value you see on the streets, in thrift shops, when people volunteer to clean the sidewalks, in warehouses that feed the needy on Shabbat, and, yes, even in weddings in schoolyards. 

It’s a value that is dependent not on government, but on character.

No matter who wins on Nov. 6, that truth will endure. 


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com

Amid roasted pigs, country music and rabbinical blessings, Romney seeks to define himself


Whole barbecued pigs, cheerleaders and elegies to skinny-dipping farmers’ daughters.

That was the organized noise Sunday night at the opening bash of the Republican National Convention at Tropicana Field, the home of Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg.

For those seeking Jewish content, a noted rabbi was set to kick off the formal proceedings on Tuesday, and scattered through the rain-drenched towns of Tampa Bay were a number of events addressing the pro-Israel community’s foreign policy concerns.

At the opening party, delegates availed themselves of free wine and dug into the roasted pigs, a Cuban delicacy, while watching cheerleaders grind to Rodney Atkins singing “Farmer‘s Daughter“ and “What I Love About the South” (“Hot women skinny swimming, barely belly button deep”).

Other noises reverberating across Tampa Bay: There were the winds roiling the waters that lap the bridge that links Tampa with St. Petersburg, echoes of Tropical Storm Isaac, heading west toward New Orleans. The storm mostly missed the Tampa region, but its threat was potent enough to shut down the convention’s first formal day on Monday.

And there was political noise, too: Tea Partiers met at rallies in the region to protest what they depicted as an attempt by Mitt Romney, the presumptive presidential candidate, to marginalize the hard-line conservatives as he attempts to steer the party toward the center ahead of November’s elections.

“This is what the Tea Party is not: We are not an unwanted second-class political party,” U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a leader of the movement, was quoted by the Tampa Bay Times as telling a packed church hall on Sunday.

There were reports that small groups of delegates in state delegations would protest either by not voting at the convention or by switching votes to libertarian Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), the only contender from the primaries who has not formally relinquished his nomination fight.

Followers of Paul unleashed their anger with the party’s establishment—and particularly its advocacy for a robust U.S. posture overseas—at a packed rally on the University of South Florida campus.

Paul, to cheers, blamed recent wars on “powerful special interests behind a foreign policy of intervention and the military industrial complex” and said “neocons” are “all over the place, and they’re not in one place, they’re in all of the parties.”

The rally was structured as a passing of the torch from Paul, 76, to his son, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), 49. When Rand Paul appeared, the crowd, estimated at 7,000, began chanting “16!”—underscoring the expectation that he would be a contender for the GOP nomination in four years.

The younger Paul has avoided the associations with bigots and the outright hostility to Israel that have frustrated his father’s multiple bids for the presidency. He has, however, embraced Ron Paul’s isolationism, opposing foreign assistance, including to Israel. And at the Sunday rally he posited a new challenge—an audit of the Pentagon—to a Romney campaign that has pledged increased defense spending, in part to make it clear to Iran that it was not reducing its profile in the Middle East.

“Republicans need to acknowledge that not every dollar is sacred or well spent in the military,” Rand Paul said.

There also were remnants of the moderate Republican Party nipping at the edges of the convention. Events were planned for the Log Cabin Republicans, an umbrella for gays in the party, and Republicans for Choice, an abortion rights group.

The convention schedule, constantly shifting because of the weather, was a template of Romney’s struggle to define himself and to accommodate the party’s multiple strands. Organizers pointed reporters particularly to the primetime 10-11 p.m. slot on Tuesday that featured Romney’s wife, Ann, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Both choices were aimed squarely at attempts by Democrats and the Obama campaign to depict Romney as a flip-flopper beholden to ultra-conservatives. Ann Romney, seen as his most appealing surrogate, would once and for all humanize him, and Christie would show how a moderate Republican could prevail in a Democratic state, as Romney had done when he governed Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007.

The party’s conservative wing also will be present, with speeches by Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who was Romney’s most pronounced social conservative challenger during the campaign, and Rand Paul. There also will be a video tribute to Ron Paul, an event that Jewish Democrats have derided.

Notably absent as speakers were any remnant of the past decade’s GOP bids for the presidency. Former President George W. Bush is not present or speaking, nor is his vice president, Dick Cheney. Missing also is the 2008 ticket, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor.

Romney has, however, surrounded himself with foreign policy advisers from past presidents. Most notably for the pro-Israel community, his top Middle East adviser is Den Senor, who has close ties with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and was the U.S. spokesman in Iraq in the period following the war that ousted Saddam Hussein.

AIPAC, as it has at past conventions, was running a number of closed events with top campaign advisers in the Tampa area during the convention, and is planning to do the same next week in Charlotte, N.C., when the Democrats meet. On the pro-Israel lobby’s agenda in Tampa is a bid to understand how Romney would distinguish himself from President Obama in confronting Iran and a broader Middle East roiled by change—the principal source of tension between the president and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

One signal of consistency with the Obama presidency emerged last week during platform debate when Romney surrogates, led by Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.), pushed back against bids to remove a commitment to eventual Palestinian statehood from the platform. Talent noted at the time that two states remains the official Israeli government position.

Jewish officials, committed to building bipartisan consensus on Israel and other issues, expressed concerns about navigating a polarized Washington. At an American Jewish Committee event on energy policy, Richard Foltin, the AJC’s director of legislative affairs, acknowledged the difficulties of making the case for an AJC energy security policy that strives for a middle ground between exploiting U.S. natural resources, which Republicans favor, and alternatives to fossil fuels, the choice of Democrats.

“It’s our role as advocates to say we are not free to desist, even though we are dealing in a polarized and difficult time to move those agendas,” Foltin said.

The convention schedule also underscored Romney’s bid to make more diverse a party that has become increasingly identified with white Christians. Delivering Tuesday’s opening invocation is Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, the scion of a distinguished rabbinic family who has opined on (small c) conservative issues. He also is the director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University and associate rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Also delivering blessings are Hispanic evangelical leader Sammy Rodriguez; Ishwar Singh, a leader in Central Florida’s Sikh community (who approached convention organizers about delivering an invocation in the wake of the recent massacre at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin); Archbishop Demetrios, the primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America; Ken and Priscilla Hutchins, the president and matron of the Mormon temple in Romney’s home base of Boston; and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the head of New York’s Roman Catholic Archdiocese and the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Romney/Ryan and the lullaby of lying


It shouldn’t have taken Todd Akin’s ” target=”_hplink”>method of conception.” 

If the news media hadn’t grown blasé about the Republican war on women, plenty of pre-Akin Americans would have already known that GOP majorities in Congress and state legislatures have repeatedly voted to narrow the definition of “legitimate rape” to “” target=”_hplink”>personhood” to fertilized eggs, which would criminalize birth control pills, IUDs and in vitro fertility procedures.  If cynicism weren’t the default mode of political reporting, we’d now be seeing Mitt Romney’s feet held to the fire of his party’s ” target=”_hplink”>Reince Preibus’ attempt to dissociate the candidate from his platform would be worth more than a chuckle and a yawn from the press corps.

“The Big Lie” is a propaganda technique that kids hear about in school.  If you learn what Nazis and Communists did, if you read Orwell’s “1984,” you’re supposed to be inoculated against pervasive, outrageous falsehoods.  That’s why Jefferson and Franklin counted on public education and public libraries.  It’s also why the First Amendment protects the fourth estate; it shields muckrakers, investigative journalists, critics and gadflies from censorship.

But today the biggest threat to democracy isn’t government intimidation of the press.  It’s boredom – a consequence of the domination of political communication by paid media, the subordination of news to entertainment, the imperative to monetize audience attention, the fear that information and amusement are locked in a zero sum game. 

Mitt Romney and deep pockets like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson have flooded the airwaves with ads claiming that Barack Obama has eliminated the ” target=”_hplink”>Medicare recipients to fund a ” target=”_hplink”>lazy blacks, there’s no news left in the narrative.  Networks fear that audiences will get bored, so they move on.  And yes, there may be some truth to their understanding of their customers.  We’re hooked on novelty, suckers for speed, addled by ADD.  But billionaires don’t get bored.  They keep paying to pound those ads into our heads, whether we like it or not.  Repetition is the demagogue’s best friend. 

No member of Congress is farther to the right than Paul Ryan.  He’s an acolyte of the ideologue ” target=”_hplink”>safety net that has defined the American social contract since the 1930s, but explaining this takes time, which risks audience share, and in the face of a barrage of ads portraying him as the savior of seniors, it takes the kind of persistence that news executives fear hurts ratings.  He is a ” target=”_hplink”>fraudulent, but hey, how ‘bout the six-pack on that dreamboat?

If the media were doing its job in this election, the story it would be telling over and over is that Mitt Romney’s qualification for the presidency consists of a career at Bain Capital about which we know essentially nothing; that his economic plan is the most massive ” target=”_hplink”>financial disclosure rules that have applied to presidential candidates since his father ran; that his ” target=”_hplink”>identical to the Affordable Care Act he promises to repeal; that he has ” target=”_hplink”>suppress voter turnout may well send him to the White House.

But that’s old news.  Been there, done that.  I’ll leave it to others to make the case that the press is giving Obama a free ride.  If that’s true, then there’s been a double dereliction of duty.  News producers are afraid that indefatigable fact checking of either party will bore the pants off people.  But I don’t smell any fear of ennui emanating from station owners making billions off broadcasting the Big Lie.

Marty Kaplan is the ” target=”_hplink”>USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.  Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

So, how many Jews will vote for Mitt Romney?


Here is a truism we all already know: Jews are news. The fact is, no matter how tiny the American Jewish community might be — between 1.5 and 2 percent of the population — the battle for Jewish votes will be extensively reported and analyzed.

Over the last several decades, Democratic identification overall has fluctuated both up and down, from 36 percent at the high points, in 1988 and 2008 (according to Gallup poll tracking), to lows of 31 percent in 2010. Among many traditionally Democratic groups, such as white Southerners, Catholics and others, the trend has been fairly consistently downward, even as other groups, mainly Hispanics,  became more reliable supporters of the party. However, while others were changing affiliations, Jews’ political leanings remained largely the same.

There are many explanations for the unique political behavior of the Jewish voter, most focusing on the relatively liberal views of Jews on almost all social issues, while others suggesting that the “rural, overwhelmingly Christian and Southern” nature of the GOP is a turn-off for Jewish voters. The Washington Post’s conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin framed it thus: “They don’t sound like us, they don’t talk like us, and they don’t understand us.”

Whatever the reason, in almost every election cycle of recent years, Republicans have attempted to make a new case for the “this time, it is really coming” argument — namely, that a new wave of Jewish Republican voters is about to appear. However, as I outlined in 2009 in a long piece in Commentary Magazine, “The story remained what it has been over the course of the past seven national elections, with Jews voting for Democratic candidates by colossal margins.”

Will 2012 prove any different? Last August, New York Times op-ed columnist Charles Blow made a case somewhat reminiscent of the Republican claims of 2004 and 2008: Relying on data from the Pew Research Center in 2010, Blow argued that “the number of Jews who identify as Republican or as independents who lean Republican has increased by more than half since the year [Barack Obama] was elected. At 33 percent, it now stands at the highest level since the data have been kept. In 2008, the ratio of Democratic Jews to Republican Jews was far more than three to one. Now it’s less than two to one.”

In response to criticism from some quarters, Blow nevertheless repeated his claim a few weeks later in another column, in which he argued that “Obama’s approval rating among Jews in 2010 averaged 58 percent. This percentage was the lowest of all those representing his enthusiastic supporter groups except one, the religious unaffiliated.” Blow’s claim that Obama’s loss of support among Jews should be attributed to the president’s positions on Israel was furiously debated (many of Blow’s critics were associated with the dovish J Street lobby, and relied on many polls in which Jews rank the topic of “Israel” as fairly low in their voting priorities). Nevertheless, the question remains: Do Jews — as one might conclude from the Pew numbers — now trend Republican more than they have in the past?

To help make all this a numbers-based type of discussion, we gathered data available from four sources: the American Jewish Committee (AJC) annual surveys of Jewish opinion, Gallup surveys, the study on Jewish Distinctiveness in America by Tom W. Smith (from 2005 — we needed those to get a glimpse of previous decades) and the Pew Research Center studies. The result was quite revealing: While Pew studies suggest that the GOP is gaining somewhat among Jewish voters (that’s the basis for the Blow post), the other data seem to suggest that Jews don’t really trend Republican, but rather independent — like the rest of the electorate. In other words, the Democratic Party is losing, while the Republican Party is not necessarily gaining.

Even if Jews aren’t yet moving in droves over to the GOP camp, the data might still be considered bad news for the Democratic Party. When a Republican candidate for the presidency is getting more votes from Jewish voters, it is not usually Jewish Republican voters. As one study showed, “The average non-Jewish Bush voter identifies as a weak Republican, while the mean Jewish Bush voter is an independent-leaning Republican.” Another study, this one of the 2008 election, found that “among Independents, we see even more of a pronounced split, with Obama garnering just over 36 percent, McCain close to 30 percent and undecided at 30 percent.” Clearly, the more independent the Jewish voter, the more likely he is to choose a Republican over a Democratic nominee.

To better understand this, one must consider a follow-up on the “leanings” of independent Jewish voters. Back in 2004, a study found that “after asking independents which party they ‘leaned’ toward, 64 percent of all Jewish voters identified as Democrats, 16 percent as Republicans and 20 percent as independents.” If that is still the case, then Democrats have less to worry about, as most “leaners” tend to behave in a way similar to that of party partisans. But Republicans can hope that the Pew 2010 study is a sign that Jewish independents now trend Republican.

This is exactly what the most recent AJC study also suggests. This survey posed two questions relevant to the question of Jewish party identification. The first question is the one the AJC people included in previous polls: “In politics TODAY, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat or an Independent?” The second one is a new one for AJC polls: “[IF INDEPENDENT/OTHER] As of TODAY, do you think of yourself as closer to the Republican Party/Democratic Party?”

The second question is the one that’s making the difference. Of the 26 percent Independents responding to this poll, 15 percent, when pressured to “lean” toward one of the parties, chose to lean GOP. Taken together, GOP voters plus those leaning toward the GOP amount in this poll to 27 percent, not far from the 29 percent registered by Pew — and a reflection of a possible rightward trend. 

Having said that, not one serious pollster or political operative expects the Jewish vote to be divided in favor of the 2012 Republican candidate or to be equally distributed. The question is not about who will be winning the Jewish vote, but rather, whether the GOP can outperform its past performances with Jewish voters. Pollster Jim Gerstein answered this question last November by saying the following: “Our latest poll of American Jews simulated an election between Obama and Romney, and perhaps presents the clearest picture of where the Jewish vote may be headed. The initial vote shows Obama leading 63 to 24 [percent]. When we allocated the undecided voters by party identification — a common practice among political pollsters when trying to map out the outcome of a race — the vote was 70 to 27 [percent].”

So what does this mean for presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney?

It is important to note at this point that in reality, for Jewish votes to be of any significance come Election Day, the margin between candidates has to be very small — very, very small — and in very specific areas.

Take Ohio. Jews in this state comprise 3 percent of the vote; in 2004 George W. Bush took the election by 2.1 percent of the entire Ohio electorate. This means that even in the closest of elections, you need every single Jew to vote as one bloc to make a difference. That is never going to happen, as even the most optimistic (among Republican operatives) and the most pessimistic (among Democratic operatives) put the percentage of Jewish voters in play no higher than 15 to 18 percent, which could potentially be added to the 22 to 26 percent who voted for John McCain in 2008.

In February 2012, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life published a new analysis of party identification by religion. The bottom line, as far as Jewish voters go, was pretty clear: “Even Jewish voters, who have traditionally been and remain one of the strongest Democratic constituencies, have moved noticeably in the Republican direction; Jewish voters favored the Democrats by a 52-point margin in 2008 but now prefer the Democratic Party by a significantly smaller 36-point margin.”

Yet a May 2012 AJC survey of American Jewish opinion (which actually contained nothing Earth-shattering) found support for Obama among American Jews to be slightly higher than it had been half a year earlier, but still not very high. As Ron Kampeas of the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) reported at the time: “The AJC’s new findings are similar to those of the Public Religion Research Institute in March. That poll showed Obama scoring 62 percent of the Jewish vote, as opposed to 30 percent for a GOP candidate.”

Romney, according to the AJC survey, could get as much as 33 percent of the Jewish vote. That’s nice compared to Republican performances in previous election cycles, but not the meltdown of Jewish support for Obama that some Republican operatives predicted about a year ago. Forty percent of Jewish Americans do not approve of Obama’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations. But this is a significant improvement compared to the September 2011 survey in which 53 percent registered in the “disapprove” column. 

A June 2012 Gallup poll on the current tendencies of Jewish voters (and accompanying analysis by Jeffrey Jones) makes clear that “Obama remains the favorite of Jewish voters but appears to be running a bit weaker among them than he did in 2008, given the 10-point drop in Jewish support for him compared with a five-point drop among all voters. Nonetheless, for those who have a short memory, maybe it is worth pointing out that 10 months ago, Gallup was saying the exact opposite — that Obama’s numbers are down among Jews proportionally to the president’s decline among other groups:

“There is little sign that President Obama is suffering disproportionately in support among Jews; 54 percent approved of his job performance from Aug. 1-Sept. 15, 13 percentage points higher than his overall 41 percent approval rating during that time, and similar to the average 14-point gap seen throughout Obama’s term.”

True, comparisons can be tricky. A year ago, the question was about presidential approval, and this time it is about voting preference. Even trickier is that Gallup compares Obama of June 2012 to Obama of October 2008. What happens if one compares June 2012 to June 2008? Suddenly, Obama doesn’t look like a loser: Back in 2008, Jewish voters hesitated during the summer, and it was only in the fall that they made up their minds to support Obama in far greater numbers than previously registered. This might — or might not — happen again this coming November. Time will tell.

Assuming that around 75 percent of American Jews voted for Obama in 2008 (very few knowledgeable observers still believe the 78 percent exit poll number of 2008), how high can Romney climb? If the Jewish swing votes in play are no more than 18 percent — the most ambitious estimate I’ve heard from American sources in the know — Romney’s ceiling is 43 percent. But for him to get to that number, one needs to give him the votes of every single undecided Jewish voter. Realistic? Not quite.

If Romney gets half the votes of undecided Jews, he’ll be at 34 percent. That is, if you agree with the estimated 25 percent Jewish Republican voters, and the estimated 18 percent of Jewish votes in play. If you go by the exit poll (22 percent of Jews voted McCain in 2008) and add to it the lowest estimate of votes in play (I heard 12 percent), the Romney ceiling is a much lower 34 percent, and the likely Romney achievement (if he gets half of the Jewish votes in play) will be at around 28 percent of the Jewish vote. When was the last time that any Republican nominee got 30 percent or more of the Jewish vote? Reagan in 1984. It would be no mean feat if Romney were able to get more votes than McCain, George W. Bush (twice), Dole, George H. W. Bush and repeat the 1984 Reagan vote.

Writer Sara Miller contributed to this report.

Komen foundation cuts funding to Planned Parenthood


The Susan B. Komen for the Cure foundation cut funding for Planned Parenthood breast cancer testing.

The foundation said the decision, which was announced Tuesday, was prompted by its ban on dealing with groups under investigation in Congress.

Planned Parenthood’s defenders say the congressional investigation is based on debunked allegations that it misuses federal funds.

Planned Parenthood had joined with Komen in providing preventative breast exams for low-income women.

The National Council of Jewish Women on Wednesday accused Komen of caving into pressure from right-wing groups, noting that such groups oppose Planned Parenthood for the abortion services it provides.

“Komen’s action puts politics before women’s health, placing the foundation in the same company as those who seek to defund Planned Parenthood altogether as part of anti-choice agenda and in complete disregard for women’s welfare,” NCJW said.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) also said that because of the decision, she would no longer support the Komen foundation.

Komen was founded by Nancy Brinker, a prominent Texas Jewish Republican activist, in her sister’s memory.

Iowans weigh in on GOP’s Ron Paul and Israel


I have come from Israel to the United States to witness the Republican candidates’ campaigns for the presidency. Earlier this week, I spent some time reporting from Iowa, including talking to Ron Paul supporters. Of those I met, first one must say they were all very courteous and nice. If Paul’s supporters — now we can start calling them voters — bear any grudge against Israel, they hide it well. At least the supporters here in Iowa do. At least those with whom I was speaking did. And, one must also say, not one Paul supporter refused to speak to me. In the course of four days, but mostly on Jan. 2, I interviewed about a dozen of them. Not all agreed to be named, but many did. They did, even though they probably suspected that I’m not Paul’s greatest fan, as all my conversations started exactly the same way: “Hello, are you a Paul supporter? I’m a writer from Israel, and I would like to talk to you about your candidate and Israel. Would you give me two or three minutes of your time?”

Aaron Storm, 30 and single, works in technical support. He is a staunch Paul voter. Back in 2008, he voted for Paul in the primaries, and he voted for him again in the general election, even though Paul wasn’t officially on the ballot. “I vote my heart and conscience,” he told me — meaning, when Mitt Romney becomes the Republican nominee, Storm should not be counted as a likely GOP voter.

I met Storm at the downtown Des Moines Marriott, where Ron Paul and his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), were holding a rally Monday morning. The room was packed with supporters and reporters, and Storm looked happy — his candidate seems to be doing well, better than four years ago.

“So what is it about Paul and Israel?” I asked him. His answer — and this is pretty much what I’ve heard from nearly everyone I’ve been speaking with — was somewhat surprising. It is all a big misunderstanding, he patiently explained. “All the candidates say they will support Israel, but Paul is actually supporting Israel. He is the only one saying that Israel should be able to do whatever it wants to do.” Like bombing the Iraqi nuclear reactor back in the early ’80s. The Reagan administration was very unhappy with this action, and “Paul was the only one that was not against this,” Storm said.

Then he used a phrase that was repeated in many of my conversations. “You [Israelis] are like slaves to the lender.” The U.S. gives you financial support, and you have to do what the U.S. tells you to do. Don’t you want to get off the hook? “We give much more money to Israel’s enemies then we give to Israel; it doesn’t make sense for Israel to want us to continue doing it,” Storm said. Then he made another point that I’ve heard from more than one Paul supporter: “Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu told Congress that Israel would never ask America to fight for Israel; why can he say that, and Ron Paul can’t? This is what Netanyahu wants; Paul agrees with him.”

Tim Juang, 18, of Minnesota, is another supporter who pulls Netanyahu’s speech out of the hat. “He said that Israel can defend itself,” Juang reminds me. Juang came here with some schoolmates to volunteer for Paul before the Iowa caucuses. And he is the youngest and most blunt of all my Paul-supporting interviewees. Preventing Iran from having a nuclear weapon is “a form of bigotry,” he told me. We Americans “have nuclear weapons, and you”  — Israelis — “also have nuclear weapons. Why can’t Iran also have nuclear weapons? Only because they are Muslims? This is racism.”

During his short speech, minutes earlier, Paul pleaded with his fellow Americans to “stay out of the internal affairs of other nations.”  Juang could not agree more. “We should not intervene; most of our fears are unjustified.”  He did not say anything about Israel that could even remotely be considered antagonistic, but he also didn’t try to portray himself as the biggest fan of the U.S.-Israel alliance.

Diana — one of two Dianas with whom I spoke, this one on the condition that her last name would not be printed —  is not at all like Juang. She’s “a devout Christian who loves Israel. I want to have a president that will let Israel do what needs to be done. I want America to stop giving money to Israel’s enemies.” Yes, she knows that Israel is also getting some funds, but, just like Storm, she doesn’t see the rationale behind this double giving. “If we don’t give more money, we all benefit. Americans will benefit, because we need this money and don’t have any to spare to spend on other nations, and Israel will benefit because its enemies will not be getting any money.” 

Diana Burkhalter is the other Diana. She is yet another Paul supporter whom Romney (or any other candidate winning this race, other than Paul) would not be able to count on, come Election Day. “Paul wants all peoples to have sovereignty of land — to America and to Israel,” she said. Other Republican candidates feel that the United States must intervene in other places, so, when Paul says he wants no such intervention, “People interpret this as [being] anti-Israel,” she told me. But it is not — if you care to believe Burkhalter or any one of the other Paul people I’ve interviewed.

“It is all media propaganda,” Storm said of how Paul is perceived. And as we speak, I am reminded of something Newt Gingrich had told me two days before: “As Republicans learn more about Paul’s positions [his support] would drop” — and I am not at all convinced that he is right. The young people I interviewed seem as informed as they want to be. It is not that they don’t know Iran is dangerous; they just don’t see why the United States should be the one doing anything about it. It is not that they don’t respect Israel or its security concerns; they just don’t see why American money should be spent to protect people who have vowed to protect themselves.

Among Paul’s supporters, there are also bigots and anti-Semites, no doubt. And the candidate himself has been accused of saying (which he denied) some nasty things about Israel. In the week before the Iowa caucuses, though, the Paul supporters I had a chance to meet were all patient and cooperative, and, well, quite friendly toward this visiting, nagging Israeli. So much so that when I thanked Storm for his time and his answers, he just nodded and then said, “Shalom.”

Romney, Santorum say they would vote for Paul if he wins nomination


Two Republican presidential candidates said they would vote for Rep. Ron Paul if he wins the GOP nomination.

Mitt Romney, considered a frontrunner, and Rick Santorum, now undergoing a late surge in polls in Iowa, both told CNN in recent days that they would vote for Paul if he were to secure the nomination.

“I don’t agree with a lot of things that Ron Paul says, and I would vehemently oppose many of his initiatives, and I believe that we’d be able to move him in a direction that’s more productive,” Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, told CNN Wednesday.

Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania said he would absolutely vote for Paul, but added: “I’d have to take a lot of antacids when I go into the voting booth and vote for him.”

Paul, a Texas congressman, is currently placing second in many polls in Iowa, home to the nation’s first caucuses, and in New Hampshire, the first state to hold primaries.

Paul’s foreign policy views—including his support for ending aid to Israel and emphatic warnings against confronting Iran over its suspected nuclear weapons program—have made him an outlier in the Republican field. He has been strongly criticized by many of his fellow candidates.

In addition, Paul has been dogged by questions about anti-Semitic, anti-gay and racist content in newsletters sent out under his name in the 1980s and 1990s.

Romney and Santorum expressed hope that if Paul were nominated, he could be persuaded to change his positions.

Fellow candidate Newt Gingrich told CNN Tuesday that he could not vote for Paul, citing his views on Israel and Iran, as well as the newsletters. But in the same interview, the former U.S. House of Representatives speaker later said that it would be “a very hard choice”  if he had to choose between President Obama and Paul.

GOP platform offers strong support for Israel, veers right domestically


MINNEAPOLIS (JTA)—John McCain’s Jewish supporters characterize him as a Republican maverick who shares his party’s bedrock support for Israel and combating anti-Semitism. Critics dismiss him as the standard-bearer of a staunchly conservative party at odds with the Jewish community on a host of issues.

They’re both right, judging from the platform approved this week at the Republican convention in St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The platform includes a call for an end to all government-funded embryonic stem-cell research and a ban on all abortions—positions that, polls show, are contrary to those of most Jewish voters. Of course, they also do not conform to the views of McCain, who has said that he would revoke President Bush’s restrictions on federal funding for stem-cell research, permit abortions in cases of rape, incest and threats to the life of the mother.

On immigration, McCain, the U.S. senator from Arizona who is the presumptive Republican nominee for president, has pressed for legislation that would provide undocumented workers with a path toward citizenship, but the platform declares: “We oppose amnesty.”

The McCain campaign reportedly decided to avoid significant fights over the platform rather than upset leaders of the party’s conservative base, many of whom have expressed concern over the GOP nominee. His supporters argue that the platform is irrelevant to understanding McCain and that voters will make their decisions based on how they view the candidate.

Texas state Sen. Florence Shapiro, the only Jewish female Republican in her state legislature, said that the platform is “not what guides my everyday” decision-making and doubts voters will be using it to make decisions either.

They will and should be “looking at John McCain and his positions and record,” she said.

Another Jewish delegate from Texas, Houstonian Stuart Mayper, said the strong “pro-life” language in the platform could be a problem for some Jews. But, he quickly added, the platform contains language strongly supportive of Israel that should be attractive to the Jewish community.

Sources familiar with the formation of the platform say the language dealing with Israel and fighting anti-Semitism was drafted in consultation with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and other Jewish groups.

The platform echoes AIPAC’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling for a two-state solution but placing the onus on the Palestinians to take several key steps and calling on nearby Arab countries to play a more constructive role. It also declares support for “Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and moving the American embassy to that undivided capital of Israel.”

Both McCain and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the Democratic nominee, have said that the status of Jerusalem ultimately would be decided in negotiations between the two sides. McCain has pledged to move the embassy to Jerusalem right away—a promise that the Obama campaign rejected, essentially calling it a lie.

The GOP platform calls for the isolation of Hamas and Hezbollah and vows to maintain Israel’s qualitative edge in military technology over its enemies—all positions shared by Obama and McCain.

In several contexts, the platform stresses the need to combat anti-Semitism—on university campuses, in Europe and across the world—and declares that “discrimination against Israel at the U.N. is unacceptable.”

It says that Iran cannot be permitted to obtain nuclear weapons, calls for a “significant increase in political, economic, and diplomatic pressure” on Tehran and insists that the United States “must retain all options” in dealing with the situation.

Without naming Obama, the platform draws a contrast with the Democratic nominee’s previously stated willingness to meet with the Iranian president. It states: “We oppose entering into a presidential-level, unconditional dialogue with the regime in Iran until it takes steps to improve its behavior, particularly with respect to the support of terrorism and suspension of its efforts to enrich uranium.”

L.A. Jewish GOP Parties, Dems Despair


Stress and disappointment gave way to jubilation at the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) of Los Angeles’ election night party as President George W. Bush piled up the electoral votes and turned the map of the United States Republican red.

The mood was far more somber at the Manhattan Beach Marriot, where Democrats gathered for a victory party that never took place. By early morning, the crowd had dwindled to a handful of true believers who looked stunned by Sen. John F. Kerry’s disappointing performance.

Things got off to a slow start at RJC’s event at Level One supper club on Wilshire Boulevard. A sense of foreboding filled the crowd of 250 Republicans as early exit polls showed Kerry in the lead.

A dispirited Allen Jacobs, 27, said he felt nervous, anxious and worried. Frustrated by the early results, he attacked newly registered young Democrats as “uneducated voters who do whatever Puffy says,” an allusion to rapper Sean “P. Diddy” Combs’ efforts to get out the vote.

But like a cyclone that suddenly shifts directions, momentum quickly swung the Jewish Republicans’ way. Fox announced that Bush held a 5 percentage point lead over Kerry in Florida with 95 percent of the vote in. Men and women let out shrieks of joy, quickly forgetting about Pennsylvania. All eyes focused on Ohio, the do-or-die state for both Bush and Kerry.

Well-groomed 20-somethings clad in black, reeking of tobacco and wine, sat side by side with rich bankers and middle-aged fallen liberals who said they had never voted Republican until now.

RJC Southern California Director Larry Greenfield smiled as he surveyed the diverse crowd of Bush supporters. He said the high turnout for the festivities reflected the political realignment now taking place among traditionally Democratic Jews. Simply put: he said the Democrats had lurched too far to the left and the Republicans had become the party of liberty and stalwart support for Israel.

“Our movement is growing, and the Jewish conversation is broadening,” said Greenfield, who participated in 40 debates around the Southland before the election.

Early Los Angeles Times exit polls confirmed this trend: In California, 80 percent of Jews voted for Kerry and 20 percent voted for Bush, compared to 2000, when 81 percent voted for Gore and 15 percent voted for Bush.

In Manhattan Beach, a dark mood permeated the ballroom. Beth Matenko, a Jewish Canadian immigrant who hopes to become a U.S. citizen and vote, said she thought Jews had helped the conservative president win re-election.

“A lot of Jewish voters are voting for Bush. It’s obvious,” she said.

Back at Level One, pandemonium broke out at 9:45 p.m. when Fox projected Bush the winner in Ohio.

Jay Hoffman, a 52-year-old retiree from Los Angeles, broke into a wide smile. Around him, friends and family hugged one another.

“I think it helps Jews everywhere to have access to the Republican Party,” he said. “Democrats can no longer take the Jewish vote for granted.”

A number of RJC revelers said they had often voted Democratic in the past, but no more. They said they changed their allegiance because Bush exhibited the strong leadership needed to successfully prosecute the war on terror. Equally important, they said he understood the folly of dealing with Yasser Arafat, a terrorist not welcome in the Bush White House.

Shirley Darvish, a 24-year-old independent, said she disagreed with the president on most social issues. For the Beverly Hills mortgage banker, foreign policy trumps domestic policy in the post-Sept. 11 world. In her view, Kerry worried too much about keeping on good terms with America’s allies and not enough about identifying U.S. interests and pursuing them.

“I don’t want somebody whose going to bow down to the U.N.,” said Darvish, alluding to Kerry’s promise to work closely with the international body. “I want somebody who will make the big decisions, regardless of what other countries think.”

Lifelong Democrat Susan Rabin said she’s a new GOP convert. An entertainment lawyer who marched against the war in Vietnam in the ’60s, Rabin said her transformation from a Mill Valley liberal to ardent Bush supporter began after Sept. 11.

Stunned by the viciousness of radical Islam, she said her friends’ reaction to the terror attacks shocked her nearly as much. Rabin’s progressive pals said U.S. policies and an unflagging support for anti-Palestinian Israel had provoked the tragedy. From then on, Rabin said she considered herself a liberal no more.

“They were blaming the victim,” she said. “I couldn’t stand that they weren’t being supportive of our country and Israel. I was completely turned off.”

David Finnigan and Tom Tugend contributed to this report.

Russian Jews Favor Bush


While American-born Jews and Russian-speaking Jews in New York have been building stronger intercommunal ties in recent years, they remain far apart when it comes to presidential politics.

A recent American Jewish Committee (AJC) poll showed American Jews favoring Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry over President Bush by a wide margin, 69 percent to 24 percent.

But in a separate survey of Russian Jews in New York City, the AJC found that 54 percent of Jews from the former Soviet Union would vote for Bush and 14 percent for Kerry, with 25 percent undecided.

And according to a number of political observers in the Russian community, that poll may even underestimate Bush’s strength among Russian speakers.

“From my conversations with a wide assortment of people in the Russian community, I would estimate that the numbers are something like 8 to 1 for Bush over Kerry,” said Ari Kagan, executive director of the United Association of East European Jewry and a commentator for the Russian Forward.

“The feeling for Bush is so vociferous that I don’t know of one prominent person in the Russian community who is willing to say openly he is backing Kerry,” Kagan said.

Fira Stukelman, former president of the Association of Holocaust Survivors From the Former Soviet Union and one of the community’s leading advocates for seniors, said that older Russians voted strongly for Al Gore over Bush in 2000.

But she said, “This time they are going overwhelmingly for Bush over Kerry. The reason is simple: Israel, Israel and Israel. Russian Jews are convinced Bush is the best friend Israel has ever had and is doing more to protect Israel’s interests than any other American president.”

Since their arrival in large numbers from the Soviet Union in the late 1970s and their growth to the point where they comprise an estimated 20 percent of the Jews in the five boroughs that make up New York City, the Russian-speaking community has been a classic swing constituency. In the 1980s, the community tended to vote Republican in large measure because of President Ronald Reagan, whom they adored for his characterization of their former homeland as the “Evil Empire.”

In the 1990s, the Russians swung sharply into the Democratic camp because of an affection for President Bill Clinton and because the GOP-run Congress spearheaded a series of measures that cut social benefits for immigrants. In 2000, Russian Jews in New York are believed to have voted for Gore over Bush 77 to 20.

Yet all of that has changed radically over the past four years as Russian-speaking New Yorkers, traumatized by the impact of Sept. 11, have responded favorably to Bush’s war on terror, including the invasion of Iraq, and his unabashed support for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in his struggle with the Palestinians.

In recent weeks, other factors have emerged that are strengthening the movement toward Bush and the Republicans:

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• The formation of an organization known as Russian American Jews for Bush headed by community leaders, including Dr. Igor Branovan, president of Russian American Jews for Israel, and Valery Weinberg, editor of Novoye Russkoye Slovo, the Russian-speaking community’s only daily newspaper. There is no similar high-profile effort in the Russian community on behalf of Kerry.

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• A plethora of commentators in the Russian-language electronic and print media advocating on behalf of Bush and none on behalf of Kerry. All of the commentators on Russian-language television stations RTVI and RTN and radio stations Peoples’ Wave and New Life are strongly, even stridently, pro-Bush, and nearly all of the community newspapers have an overtly pro-Bush position. An exception is the Russian Forward, which according to Kagan, “is covering the election in a more objective way, something that makes many people in the community angry at us.”

How important the Russian surge for Bush may be in affecting the election locally and nationally is unclear.

While New York State is considered out of reach for Bush — although polls have him cutting strongly into Kerry’s lead here — coverage of the election in the New York-based Russian media may have a spill-over impact on the sizable Russian vote in battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Michigan and even New Jersey, where Bush and Kerry are running neck and neck.

Though Russians are believed to be upward of 20 percent of the total Jewish population of New York City and about 12 percent of the Jewish population nationally, 30 percent to 40 percent of the Russian Jews are not yet citizens and therefore are unable to vote, and only about 59 percent of eligible Russian voters have voted in recent elections compared to about 79 percent of the total Jewish population.

Nevertheless, the swing of Russian Jews toward the GOP, if it continues, has the potential to make the larger Jewish community considerably less Democratic in the longer term.

Branovan, an increasingly prominent Russian community leader, said, “I decided to take a leadership role in support of Bush in our community because Bush has a proven record on fighting international terror and providing Israel with defensible borders.”

Asked why he believes Russian Jews are coming down so differently on the election than American Jews, Branovan said, “The two communities have different conceptions and priorities. Israel is the most important issue for Russian Jews, in part because a higher percentage of us have close relatives in Israel than do most American Jews.

“We see Bush as the spiritual son of Ronald Reagan and have a cultural preference for strong leaders, not those who vacillate like Kerry does,” he said.

According to Sam Kliger, a sociologist who directed the survey of Russian voter attitudes on behalf of the AJC, “Having seen Sept. 11 with our own eyes and having lost friends and loved ones to terrorism in Israel, Russians relate well to Bush’s talk of fighting an evil enemy in Islamic fundamentalism, just as Reagan did against communism.”

He said that Russians, who mainly depend on earned income, thought that receiving a $500 check in the mail thanks to Bush’s tax cuts was a big deal.

In addition, he said, Russians believe strongly in family values and support Bush in his opposition to gay marriage.

“They believe strongly that abortion should be available in all circumstances, but can’t really imagine that Bush or any other president could take it away. They think maybe that could happen in some other state, but not in New York,” Kliger said.

Jay Lefkowitz, co-chair of the JCRC’s Jewish Voter Outreach campaign and a strong supporter of Bush, believes that “in the Russian community there will clearly be a surge in voting for George Bush in recognition of his rock-solid record on Israel and the war on terror.”

His co-chair, Matt Hilzig, a strong Kerry supporter, said, “The Russian community has a lot of people struggling day to day to make ends meet who badly need social services, and that should make them responsive to [the Democratic] message.”

Hank Sheinkopf, a political consultant who mainly works for Democrats, is concerned about what the growth of the Russian community in New York portends for his party not only in 2004 but in the long run.

“The future of the Jewish community in New York City clearly rests with the Russians,” Sheinkopf said. “There is a question as to whether they share the communal agenda, but the Jewish community needs them if we are to have any political force in the future.”

Ultimately, Sheinkopf said, the political differences between Russian Jews and native-born Jews may not be as great as they are now being perceived.

“It seems to me that the overall Jewish community is moving toward the center-right,” he said. “These days the Jewish agenda is less ideological and more bread-and-butter. Jews are a lot more concerned about Israel and anti-Semitism than they are about abortion and gay rights.”

Kliger said that the finding among New York Jews seem to reflect the opinions of Russian Jews across the country.

Even in the liberal enclave of San Francisco, Russian Jews are “leaning toward” Bush, said Pnina Levermore, executive director for the Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal. “It has largely to do with Bush’s position toward Israel, which is a major factor for the émigré community.”

“Most of us will vote for Bush, [because he is] such a staunch supporter of Israel for one thing and the way he handles terrorism,” says Denis Hiller, 19, co-owner of a Silicon Valley high-tech company.

“[The] Russian Jewish community as a whole is pretty conservative, regardless,” he said.

JTA staff writer Rachel Pomerance in New York contributed to this report.