As part of their efforts to retake the House in 2012, Democrats are ramping up their outreach to Jewish voters and donors, reactivating a national outreach committee.
Long Island’s Steve Israel, the new chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has appointed veteran Reps. Shelly Berkley of Nevada and Adam Schiff of California and freshman Ted Deutch of Florida to co-chair the committee’s American Jewish Outreach Council. Israel has chaired that outreach council in the past.
“The purpose is to make sure we communicate effectively with American Jewish voters about what we are doing, and most importantly listening to American Jewish leaders, activists and voters to make sure we can take their concerns and priorities and effectuate them,” Israel told The Jewish Week on Tuesday.
Israel, who represents the 2nd Congressional District in Suffolk, including Dix Hills, Deer Park, Commack and other areas, said the committee’s challenge is to remind Jewish voters that the Democrats not only stand with Israel but “are a better deal than the Republicans in so many areas,” including education, as the party for funding for higher education to help middle-class families.
Israel said he has “pronounced differences with the Obama administration” on its approach to the Mideast peace process.
“I don’t believe that the issue of settlements should define the U.S.-Israeli relationship,” he said. He said House Democrats would make clear to the president that “the bottom line is that it’s absolutely critical that if we expect Israel … to compromise, we have an obligation to watch its back and give it all the strength and comfort it needs to make whatever compromises it believes are necessary.”
He said Democrats would resist a call by Republican Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the new majority leader, to separate U.S. aid to Israel from the foreign appropriations package.
L. Sandy Maisel, a professor of government at Colby College in Maine, said the prominence of Berkley and Schiff in their large Jewish communities should be helpful to the Democrats’ fundraising. “They are known as good fundraisers, and that’s where the effort has to be when they are facing an uphill battle.”
But Maisel said the outreach council has its work cut out for it.
“In the Jewish community I think there is more resentment against Obama than there has been against anybody since [Jimmy] Carter,” he said. “They need to make sure it doesn’t rub off on congressional candidates.”