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September 14th, 2011
10:14 AM ET

Does Dems' loss mean trouble with Jewish voters?

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – Republicans jumped on the Democrats’ Tuesday loss of the congressional seat given up by disgraced U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner as a sign of eroding Jewish support for President Barack Obama and his party.

New York’s heavily Democratic 9th Congressional District, centered on Brooklyn and Queens, is one of the most Jewish in the nation, and the Democratic candidate was an Orthodox Jew.

"This Republican win in an overwhelmingly Democrat district is a significant indicator of the problem that President Obama has in the Jewish community,” Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks said after Republican Bob Turner won Tuesday’s special election, an outcome that few had predicted a couple of months ago.

“While party leaders scramble to deny and try to stem the erosion of Jewish support for Democrats, the real issue is this President's policies on Israel, on jobs, and on the economy,” Brooks said in a statement late Tuesday. "Bob Turner's win tonight has huge implications for 2012 races in states with large Jewish communities, such as Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.”

Turner, a former cable television executive who faced a steep fundraising disadvantage against Democrat David Weprin, framed the race as a referendum on Obama. He continually blasted the president’s posture toward Israel as insufficiently supportive.

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, a Jewish Democrat, endorsed Turner for Congress, citing Israel as the primary reason.

“My support for Mr. Turner is intended to send a message to President Obama that he cannot throw Israel under the bus with impunity,” Koch wrote recently, explaining his endorsement.

At Turner’s Tuesday night victory party, where there was a heavy Orthodox Jewish presence, Koch said: "I like President Obama. ... I helped get him elected.”

"But he threw Israel under the bus," Koch said.

Recent surveys from the Siena College Research Institute suggested that Weprin suffered from a sharp decline in Jewish support over the course of August, with a 21-point lead among Jewish likely voters dwindling to 6 points last week.

Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said the Democratic candidate's falloff in Jewish support came at the hands of defecting Jewish independents and Republicans. Greenberg estimates that New York’s 9th District is about a quarter Jewish.

A Wednesday polling memo from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not mention the role of Israel in the New York race, but said that “Republicans used the Karl Rove playbook to scare small, discrete groups of single-issue voters in a low turnout election.”

“For example, Tea Party Republican Bob Turner played on New Yorkers fear and anxiety around the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks,” the memo said. “Turner’s TV ads and mailers included images of the TwinTowers burning and the so-called Ground Zero mosque. Republican outside groups targeted Republican voters, Italian and Irish Catholics, and Orthodox Jews.”

Some Orthodox Jewish rabbis criticized Weprin during the campaign for supporting same-sex marriage as a New York state assemblyman. The National Organization for Marriage, a group opposed to same-sex marriage, spent $75,000 to defeat Weprin, including through mailers to Jewish voters.

“NOM played a major role in this election, helping to organize the Jewish and Hispanic communities to coalesce with Republicans, conservative and other pro-family voters,” the group said in a statement Wednesday. “We mounted the first and largest independent expenditure campaign in the race to make marriage a key issue, and we succeeded.”

A Siena poll earlier this month found that 76% of Jewish likely voters in Weiner’s old district said the country is headed in the wrong direction and that just 42% had a favorable view of Obama.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, enjoyed a 76% approval rating among Jewish likely voters in New York’s 9th District.

Democrats have traditionally enjoyed overwhelming levels of Jewish support.

Greenberg said that Obama is suffering among Democratic voters more broadly and that “Jewish voters are no different than all the voters in the district.”

In a May speech, Obama said that Israel's 1967 borders should be a starting point for peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and land swaps, provoking criticism from some Jewish leaders.

But a July poll from Gallup found that Obama had a 60% job approval rating among Jewish Americans, and that the speech was "not a watershed in Jewish views toward Obama.”

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut and an Orthodox Jew, endorsed Weprin over the summer and came to his defense on Israel.

"While David Weprin can be counted on to fight for the safety and security of the State of Israel, we can also rely on him to protect the seniors and working families of Brooklyn and Queens," Lieberman said in July.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Judaism • New York • Politics

soundoff (766 Responses)
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    November 8, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  2. James

    whoa i think obamas triing to be fair and balanced. I'm a zionist and and atheist but israel Is stealing occupied land

    September 18, 2011 at 1:53 am |
    • irene

      That argument would hold if all the Arab nations surrounding tiny Israel weren't trying so hard to anhilate them..would u want to give back land to people who were trying to kill you.. it"s easy for Americans who have such a huge country and no borders with terrorists

      September 24, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Mark

      Why do u think every country around israil wants to destroy it.... Cause its not tgeir land in the firat place. N they help america and other western nations dictate what happens in tge middle east. Its israils own fault. N its americas fault for being in wars over tgeir. We ahouldnt be tge world police.

      September 26, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  3. bigwilliestyles

    People keep saying that Isreal is America's 'strongest ally'. Allied against whom? The arabs in that region are already their sworn enemy, so does that mean Americans are the enemies of arabs? If not, do the mean black Africa? Certainly not Europe? Who then are the U.S. And Isreal allied against? I suspect Black Africa in pursuit of raw materials.

    September 17, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
  4. Howard

    Of course Jews are backing off from supporting when he has continually thrown Israel under the bus, while refraining from any hard line towards the Muslims. And, regarding the Palestinians, why throw one of our most loyal democratic ally's under the bus, in exchange for supporting a sharia country that cheered when 3000+ Americans were murdered on 9-11 ???

    September 16, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  5. ColoredMountains

    The Jews need to have faith in Jesus. No human can give them peace or security. Jesus alone can save the Jews and restore Israel to the God-intended glory.

    September 16, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  6. Reality

    The followers of Judaism have more pressing issues:

    To wit:

    origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times

    New Torah For Modern Minds

    “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

    The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

    September 16, 2011 at 9:00 am |
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      September 17, 2011 at 5:50 am |
  7. John

    September 15, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • .....

      GARBAGE ALERT – Don't bother viewing click the report abuse link to get rid of this TROLL!

      September 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  8. Bob

    Laura,

    There is NO SUCH THING as "Half-Jewish" in Judaism. That's a delusion, fictional, and all in your head. If the mother of the child is Jewish, or if the child converted to Judaism, he/she is Jewish. If you practice another religion in addition to Judaism, that's not "half-Jewish", that shows that the child is NOT Jewish at all. I've seen and heard of people who were raised under two religions before, and they were alright until later in life, when they hit a spiritual crisis because they didn't know which to believe, and it didn't end well. I've met people who claimed to be "half Jewish", where the father was Jewish, but the mother wasn't, they celebrated both chanukah and christmas. They were NOT Jewish. They will not be recognized by the Jewish community unless they convert to Judaism. It's as simple as that. How ignorant and uninformed are some people?

    September 15, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Mike Houston

      For those of us who are "ignorant and uninformed" it is truly difficult to understand why being Jewish is
      a genetic heritage via maternal ancestry and not via paternal lineage. If I were a Jew, and my wife not
      would my children not be Jewish if they "choose" not to "convert"?

      September 15, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • Laughing

      @MIke

      It derives from the fact that way back when, it was impossible to prove paternal lineage, lots of ra.peings and what not where happening, however it's pretty easy to identify someones mother. Now a days its entirely possible to identify the father, but jews are pretty old school about some stuff.

      For you bob
      riddle me this. If both my mother and father are jewish and yet we celebrate christmas every year (we get a tree, listen to some carols and eat chinese) are we still jewish?

      September 15, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Mike Houston

      @Laughing
      Your explanation makes sense to me. Seems perfectly logical and pragmatic.

      I suppose I'll just have to remain my "ignorant" unholy-self. If my wife is Jewish and I not why would my children
      be "Jewish" whether they "convert" or not? I know of such a situation and it remains a "riddle" to me...

      I'll have to pass on Chinese food at Christmas time, though. I'm really afraid of the spiritual implications of that...

      September 15, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.