Trying to whip up some partisan fervor in advance of upcoming city and state elections, Democratic operatives on Sunday belittled Republican gains among Jewish voters, even as others expressed concern over them.
“Republicans made scant progress” in the last election, Rep. Jerrold Nadler told the crowd at the National Jewish Democratic Council’s breakfast, held at The Center for Jewish History in Manhattan in an apparent bid to reinforce the party’s longstanding traditional ties to the community.
While Sen. John Kerry’s 75 percent of the Jewish vote was less than “the Clinton-Gore high point” of 80 percent, Nadler said, at least President George W. Bush didn’t get the 35 percent some Jewish GOP stalwarts were seeking.
Bush’s 25 percent last year, said Nadler, “is 23 percent too much. We can concede 2 percent to counting errors, but anything else is an insult.”
Nadler proceeded to bash Bush for being too cozy with the Saudis. And he wondered where was the outrage when Vice President Dick Cheney said on a talk show that it should be left to Israel to attack Iran if it attains nukes.
Rep. Anthony Weiner, a mayoral candidate, offered perhaps the best original talking point for the activists and fund-raisers, seeming to recognize a rightward shift among New York Jews.
“We have been the true conservative party,” said Weiner, noting that his party favors preserving Social Security and opposes government interference in matters like the Terri Schiavo case. “Maybe there are some problems that Tom DeLay isn’t the best judge of,” the Queens congressman said of the House majority leader.
Local Republican candidates have been gaining the support of Jewish voters, despite their overwhelming Democratic registration, leading some politicians to worry.
“We are in danger of losing ground,” said state Sen. Eric Schneiderman of Manhattan. Picking up on the values critique, he posited that it’s “particularly galling to see these supposed proponents of values, in a divisive way, try to lay claim to the Jewish community.”
Keynote speaker Ann Lewis — Sen. Hillary Clinton’s point woman in her 2000 campaign — said competition over the Jewish vote made last year a “milestone in Jewish history.” The former White House communications director, who announced that she’s back in town for Clinton’s 2006 Senate race, conceded that the Bush campaign was “relentlessly on message” in trying to woo the Jews.
Musing that all the fuss was over 5 percent of what amounts to 2 percent of the overall vote, Lewis surmised that Bush strategist Karl Rove aimed to take a slice out of enough constituencies to “amalgamate a permanent majority.” She also noted the perception of Jewish support was seen as a message to swing voters that the president is “not so bad.”
Jewish Republicans, for their part, are not only thrilled with Bush’s reputed 25 percent but convinced the true number is higher.
“The exit polls were extremely unreliable,” said Matt Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition. “But even if you accept that number, there is an unmistakable trend.”In 1992, the first President Bush received a paltry 11 percent of the Jewish vote, he noted.
“They can spin it any way they want,” Brooks said, “but John Kerry did worse than any Democratic candidate in the last 12 years.”
State Sen. Reuben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx says it might not have been the best idea to invoke Adolf Hitler during a debate over embryonic stem-cell research.
In his March 15 comments in the state Senate, Diaz said, “I want to compare Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust to what is happening in America,” and added “do not point the finger at Hitler, we are worse,” according to the Anti-Defamation League, which slammed the remarks as “abhorrent, misguided and misinformed.”
Diaz also cited Josef Mengele, saying stem-cell research was “a reincarnation” of the Nazi madman’s experiments, the Daily News reported.
In an interview Tuesday from Albany, Diaz, a Pentecostal minister who is ardently pro-life, said, “I think, in a way, using Hitler was inappropriate. Maybe the comparison was too strong.”
Those who may have been wondering what Bruce Teitelbaum, formerly Rudy Giuliani’s spirited advocate in the Jewish community, has been up to lately got an answer recently when he emerged as a representative of Elad Properties, the Israeli-owned outfit that wants to convert the historic Plaza Hotel into condos.
Teitelbaum was initially an executive at Giuliani Partners, the ex-mayor’s consulting firm, but left for undisclosed reasons and has mostly stayed out of the spotlight.
Sources said Teitelbaum is a longtime friend of Elad CEO Yitzhak Tshuva, and Teitelbaum’s wife, Suri Kasirer, has been a lobbyist for Elad for the past four years.
Schneiderman, whose upper Manhattan district includes large Dominican and Jewish communities, has been creating common ground between them by helping preserve the little-known legacy of Sosua, the tiny village in the Dominican Republic where Jewish refugees found haven during the Holocaust. The state senator has visited the island and made a project of ensuring that the records of the wartime Jewish community are preserved.
On April 3, Schneiderman and the American Jewish Congress will present an exhibition of Sosua artifacts at The Museum of Jewish Heritage-Living Memorial To The Holocaust.
In other multicultural news, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz observed St. Patrick’s Day last week with his usual custom: distributing green bagels on behalf of the Loyal League of Yiddish Sons of Erin, where he is the president and solitary member.
Lastly, in the spirit of Purim, here’s an introduction we’d like to see if the City Councilwoman from Crown Heights met the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations:
“Tish James, James Tisch … James Tisch, Tish James.”