Obama And The Orthodox

On Election Day, frum neighborhoods stood out among New York City’s handful of Republican precincts.

11/27/12
Special To The Jewish Week
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There’s an old saw in American politics, usually attributed to the sociologist Milton Himmelfarb, that goes like this: “Jews live like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.” That comment, made a generation ago when Episcopalians were a symbol of American power and wealth, indicated that Jews, by and large supporters of liberal causes, often voted against their economic interests.

In analyzing the 2012 vote, I’ve come up with a twist on Himmelfarb, this one about Orthodox Jews: “Orthodox Jews live like Puerto Ricans and vote like billionaires.”

That is my conclusion after studying the fascinating precinct-by-precinct analysis of voting in New York City published in The New York Times. The Times ran a map that showed the five boroughs awash in blue, demonstrating how President Barack Obama swept the city in his epic battle with Gov. Mitt Romney. Obama beat Romney by a whopping 81 percent to 18 percent in the city.

Among the few tiny specks of red on the map were heavily Orthodox areas, such as Brooklyn’s Borough Park and Williamsburg, and Queens’ Kew Gardens Hills. Michael M. Grynbaum, the author of the Times article, writes: “Take a four-square-block slice of Gravesend, Brooklyn, a warren of high-priced residences dotted with Sephardic temples and yeshivas that happens to be the deepest single bloc of Republican support in all five boroughs. On Election Day, 97 percent of the voters there supported Mr. Romney, who beat Mr. Obama 133 votes to 3.”

There was one other significant area in red on the Times map, and that was in the billionaire precincts of the Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue and Trump Tower on Fifth. Grynbaum called it “a tiny island of Romneyville amid Manhattan’s deep, blue-state sea.”

Lest anyone take offense at my Orthodox-Puerto Rican comparison, I’ll hearken back to the 2012 Jewish population survey conducted by UJA-Federation of New York released in June. The survey showed a marked growth in the number of Orthodox Jews in the city and a sharp increase in Jewish poverty rates, especially among chasidic Jews, where a full 43 percent qualify as poor.

It is well known that large majorities of Orthodox Jews retained an antipathy to Obama until the end. Charges that he was a “secret Muslim,” that he had insulted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and that he would turn his back on Israel as soon as the election was over could be heard over Kiddush in many Orthodox congregations.

Despite the Orthodox, exit polls indicated that Jews as a whole came out in force for the president. Nationally, he garnered 69 percent of the Jewish vote, which was a strong showing but not as good as he did in 2008 when he got 78 percent of the Jewish vote.

While Jews are small in number, about 2 percent of the population, they emerged as strategic allies of the president in the key swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia, all of which were carried by Obama.

Obama won among the Jews despite the efforts by the Republican Jewish Coalition that put up signs like “Obama… Oy Vey!” in South Florida. He also won despite the best efforts — and $60 million — of Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate. Adelson isn’t Orthodox, but he is a billionaire and a vocal supporter of right-wing political causes in Israel. As has been widely noted, not one of the candidates backed by Adelson won an election, not Newt Gingrich, not Mitt Romney and not Shmuley Boteach.

It is unlikely that Orthodox Jews or billionaires will be mollified by Obama’s recent show of support for Israel. But it is worth taking note of Obama’s comments and actions in the days after his re-election when the Israel Defense Forces mobilized thousands of troops on the Gaza to prepare for a ground invasion.

“We are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians. And we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself,” he said.

He then dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the region where, working with Netanyahu and President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt, she brokered a cease-fire agreement, one that appears to be holding.

With Obama re-elected with a clear mandate, those who oppose him have to think about how they will relate to him in the next four years. That includes Republicans, Israeli rightists and billionaires. Orthodox Jews should do the same. 

Last Update:

12/09/2012 - 20:18

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Obviously the non Orthodox Jews who died in the Holocoust were not the authentic Jews, according to Abe.
If I daven every morning and evening, am a Shabbat Shomer, and keep Kosher but do not wear a Kippah all day,makes me a non- authentic Jew, he should read up on the Hallacha of what makes an authentic Jew. I don't think his knowledge of "real Jewish" is quite up to snuff. His remark is so flawed it falls into realm of "the absurd".

The Orthodox are authentic Jews. What this all means is that authentic Jews oppose Obama. It is no surprise that liberals - that's what most of the rest are - support Obama.
He is one of them but not one of us.

Really, can we please STOP calling Orthodoxy "authentic." There are many aspects to being Jewish and adherence to set beliefs from a previous generation are only part of it. The notion of creativity exists within our tradition and we need to acknowledge it as well. Individuals of Tanakh did not look and dress like us of today and most certainly did not look like the far right of Judaism.

The election results make us need to figure out how best to interface with the government. However, nothing about Obama himself has changed. His personal deficiencies and political radicalism are what they were.

The Republican Jewish Coalition's exit poll found that more Orthodox Jews voted for Obama than for Romney. So did the J Street exit poll. This despite a massive disinformation campaign that too many so-called leaders of the community bought into -- and that continues today weeks after the election.

Ari is mostly correct, although I don't like the racist PR analogy either. I'm an OJ who voted for O'bama (Irish, not Muslim). I believe in healthcare for everyone, and I also believe that everyone should pay something for healthcare. That includes my fellow Americans (Jews included) who have no insurance.

Obamacare will save far more Jewish lives in the US than missile defense shields in Israel, which I (and Obama) also support.

If Romney had said that he supports Jewish "settlements" and does not support a two-state solution, then I might say that he could be better for Israel. But since he didn't say anything of the sort, why would anyone think he's better than Obama for Israel?

I have a really hard time understanding why any Orthodox Jew would vote for Romney. It must be an educational deficiency, and lack of exposure to reliable information sources and other non-OJ points of view.

Based on the earlier comments I also can't believe that so many OJs favor killing as many Palestinians as possible in this recent battle, instead of focusing on prevention of Jewish deaths. Do we REALLY want to massacre them? Will it do any good? I think not. Ceasefires save lives, and give the Gazan crazies a chance to rethink their stupidity.

Why is everybody so anonymous? Obama won. He backed Israel up to the hilt. A ground war could have killed a great number of Israelis and Gazans. Sure the Orthodox Haredim do not fight they just prognosticate about about what others should do, especially for them. I am an observant Jew and proud of it,but get a fever when I hear people tell all the lies they have told about our President.
I am sick of all the " Hazairim" who do nothing to improve our society,except take, but bitch and moan about how the American President is a foreign born Moslem. Pure mishugas!

I'm an orthodox jew and the article is a nice article but....... Clinton went to Israel to broker a ceasefire?? She went to stop Netanyahu from opening a ground offensive.. The way I look at the ceasefire its israel ceases and Hamas will fire!!

I agree 100%...I am really curious to know what promises Hillary made to convine Bibi..bet that there was some connection to Iran

Hillary "brokered" a cease fire or forced one at the President's request? The Israelis were ready to go in and finish the job - get rid of the weapons and blast the tunnels. Now the Iranians are restocking the shelves, eager to take some new pot-shots at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and Morsi, the so-called "peace partner" may be deposed by the Egyptian masses for declaring himself King of Egypt. I am one of the Orthodox who voted Romney because I do believe he would have better supported Israel. And I do not "live like a Puerto Rican" (which in itself is a disgusting and racist comment).

Sheldon Adelson's money helped to defeat Shelley Berkeley who ran for Senate in Nevada.

Thank you for publishing this humorous article. Especially humorous is the author's conflation of false rumors, established facts and valid if exaggerated concerns ("Charges that he was a 'secret Muslim,' that he had insulted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and that he would turn his back on Israel"). That the orthodox perceive Obama as a liberal with a worldview opposite their own need not be evidence of paranoia, but that the orthodox have finally recognized who there ideological allies are. The author's claim that Obama's 69% of the Jewish vote constitutes a "strong showing" is also funny, it that represents the lowest percentage of the Jewish vote for a Democrat since 1988.

..vote against their economic interests..? Jews?
Are you kidding?
Your statistic seems also controversial
Orthodox are living from cash money business, so as less taxes as possible.. or living from State and congregational help...(43% poor: smart parasites like in Israël)
And Billionaires don't care about some taxes which make no change in their "episcopalian styled life" Paying taxes when living on 5th Avenue never obliged anyone to fire his Butler and Cook and so on...
Hypocritical false messianism can be better looked for an explanation...
In France, you have the same aspect of the Jewry Leftist multi billionaires and crooks like Strauss Kahn...!and there is only a psychological twisted guilt feeling as an proper explanation of that left winged phenomenon.
You find it also among our Leftist Catholics with the same contradiction in Facts...

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