Jewish Voters Sound Off On What Animated Their Choice
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Jewish Voters Sound Off On What Animated Their Choice

From Hicksville to the Upper West Side to Crown Heights, fear and loathing at the polls.

As he dined with two friends at Pastrami N Friends in Commack, L.I., David L., a real estate broker from Hauppauge, L.I., said of Hillary Clinton, “I would love to have a woman president — just not that woman because she’s crooked.”

“I need a president I can trust,” he said, adding that he was voting for Trump. “My wife feels the same way.”

As she stood at the checkout counter at Woodbury Kosher Meats and Catering in Hicksville, L.I., a 78-year-old woman from Huntington Village, L.I., said she was voting for Clinton because she couldn’t vote for Trump, whom she called a “woman abuser, tax cheat, arrogant individual.”

“He brought the election process to an all-time low,” fumed the retired teacher. “I can’t picture him in negotiations with any other world leader. … I’m pro-Hillary because she is the most qualified person to vote for at this time.”

The two views expressed at the Long Island Jewish eateries mirrored the divisions in the country as Donald Trump — riding a wave of voter anger and dissatisfaction with Washington — stunned most political observers and pollsters with a resounding victory over Hillary Clinton.

Exit polls conducted for the Associated Press and the National Election Pool found that 42 percent of voters strongly favored their candidate and that only 25 percent disliked the other major party candidate. But voters questioned by The Jewish Week found that while many were passionate for their candidate, others were more passionate in their dislike for the other candidate.

The clerk behind the counter at the Long Island kosher market, Nick F., 23, of Huntington, L.I., said he was voting for Clinton because Trump “is unfit — he’s a joke. I’ve been anti-Trump from the get-go and consider myself a Democrat with conservative values. I think Trump is playing on a lot of people’s vulnerabilities and saying what people want to hear.”

But he added that most of his friends are Trump supporters, which he said has left him “flabbergasted.”

Next door at Bagel Boss, M.L. of Jericho, L.I., a 63-year-old retired pre-school teacher, said she supported Trump.

“I just don’t like Hillary Clinton or anything she stands for — especially with the [email] scandal,” she said. “I think she’s corrupt and didn’t show good judgment over her emails and the Clinton Foundation. She put the country’s security at risk. I just don’t like her. … That family has gotten away with so much. Someone else would have been in big trouble.”

She added of Trump: “I like him because his ideas are very different from the current administration, and I think the country needs change.”

In Crown Heights, Rivka K., 27, a young Chabad mother of two who visited the polling station pushing a baby stroller and sporting a long auburn wig and sunglasses, said she had just voted for Clinton.

“As a mother, I just couldn’t bring myself to vote for a man who has said things and done things that directly defy family values,” she said. “I know that a lot of people in my community are voting for Trump, but I think they’re driven by fear. I’m not voting for Hillary because I’m ‘progressive’ or a ‘feminist.’ I just care about decency, and his behavior is absolutely the opposite.”

Yehoshua Gross, 35, accompanied his elderly father to the voting station and said they both voted for Trump. Both are Chabad Lubavitch.

“Our world is up against a lot of threats right now, especially on an international scale,” said the younger man. “We need someone strong who is not going to try and negotiate with countries that want to destroy Israel and America.”

He said he was referring to the Iran nuclear agreement.

“Trump gets things done,” he added. “He won’t back down under pressure.”

Rena L., a single preschool teacher who wore a knee-length black skirt and maroon blouse, said she voted for Trump because he will be “better for religious people than Hillary,” whom she said she does not trust.

“Trump is not being pressured by the political system,” she said. “He says what he believes and there's a lot of truth in what he says. He says the things people who are so concerned about being ‘politically correct’ just don’t want to hear.”

Another Trump voter, Shalom Mintz, a kollel student at a local Chabad yeshiva, pointedly said he didn’t need to “like the president as a person, but I need to know he'll be a strong leader and follow through. Maybe Trump says some crazy things, but I believe he'll be better for Eretz Yisroel [State of Israel] and for Jewish people around the world.”

Jeremy Borovitz, 29, a rabbinical student, said he voted for Clinton because “Jewish tradition and law has always instilled in me a desire to pursue justice, to care for the refugee, to give a hand to the downtrodden, and to see us all in descendants of the same primordial ancestors. Secretary Clinton embodied these values for me much more so than Mr. Trump.”

Moshe Bressler, 23, a medical student, said he voted for Clinton, explaining: “I don’t love her but as a proud Jew I just can’t vote for a populist racist.”

On the Upper West Side, in the shadow of LaGuardia High School, a couple in their 50s waiting in line to vote said they supported Clinton.

“She’s the most qualified,” said Ruthann, who wore a blue “Hillary” button on her overcoat.
Asked about the email scandal that had embroiled Clinton during the campaign, her husband, David, replied: “I don’t care about her emails. … That is nothing compared to what her opponent has done.”

They and most others interviewed on the line said they had chosen their candidate based on his or her overall experience and demeanor and were not voting against his or her opponent. For instance, Joanna, a middle-aged psychotherapist, said she was voting for Clinton because “she’s smart.”

She said she senses a double standard in some people’s criticism of Clinton’s “aggressive” style, saying: “If she were a man, they wouldn’t be complaining. Many men don’t want a woman” to serve as president.

Regarding Trump, she said: “Trump is totally out of touch. He frightens me.”
The line outside LaGuardia was a mixture of the middle-aged and retirees, college students and young mothers pushing baby carriages.

Paul Gellart, who was in his 40s and described himself as “self-employed,” said Trump “scares the s*** out of me.”

Clinton, he said, “is not a crazy liberal” and that he wanted a president whose choices for expected vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court he could support.

In contrast to Upper West Side voters and their strong support for Clinton, most of those interviewed in Forest Hills, a Queens neighborhood with a high concentration of Jews from Uzbekistan and other parts of the former Soviet Union, support for Trump was very strong.

“I don’t like Hillary,” said Liuba Akhman, a retired teacher from Riga, Latvia, standing outside in the vote line outside of the Lynn Gross Discovery School.

“He’s good for Israel,” Akhman said. “I think such a country [a world power] should be ruled by a man.”

Next to her, a fellow émigré, from Ukraine, chanted, “Trump, Trump, Trump!”
David, in his 40s, who said he works as a volunteer for the Jewish community, called Trump “the best candidate for the job.”

He called Clinton “a big liar” and dismissed criticism of Trump for his many controversial statements.

One middle-aged woman who declined to give her name said she voted “for change – you can figure out what that means.”

Apparently, Trump.

A Trump supporter with a Russian accent said, “he cares about America – he’s the only one who can stop Hillary.” And, she added, “Trump is not going to allow Islam to take over the country. Hillary would open the borders.”

Another émigré said she is bothered by Clinton’s “treatment of Israel – she is the worst thing that could happen to Israel.”

A nurse from Israel in her 30s said she voted for Trump because of his business background and “what he says about the economy — that he’s going to bring back jobs.”

There were a few isolated outliers in Forest Hills who said they voted for Clinton. One was a
retired educator who said simply: “I’m a Democrat. I always vote for Democrats.”

But his wife said she voted for Trump because “the taint of corruption that surrounds [Clinton] is overwhelming.”

Over in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, Barbara, 69, said Trump appeals to the “worst kinds of people” and spoke of the white supremacists he attracted who “hate Jews.” She said she has a second home in Florida and has seen trucks there sporting Confederate flags.

“It’s really scary, really, really scary,” she confided. “I’m afraid, I’m really afraid. I’ve never been so afraid in my life. I’ve always been safe. I’m a nurse and I’ve always been fine wherever I go [but] not now.”

Outside a polling site near his home in Commack, L.I., Jeff Ginsburg, 42, a correctional officer, said he had just voted for Trump.

“Most people I know are voting for him,” he said. “I like him keeping illegals out and repealing Obamacare. His policies in general are more for the middle class in America.”

At a voting station in the lobby of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, Jessica Stern said her priority was a candidate’s “character” and she asked, “Can you imagine Trump [as head of state] meeting with foreign leaders?”

Rochelle Goldberg said her only concern is Israel “because that is my homeland — that’s where all the Jews belong. We all have to band together and make Israel stronger.”

She declined to say whom she supported.

Miriam Rubin said she supported Trump because of her concern about “the economy, the security of the United States, the future and security of Israel, a more traditional cultural direction” in the United States, and a desire for a conservative Supreme Court.

Another voter carrying the Bava Metzia tractate of the Babylonian Talmud, preferred not to say whom he was voting for but said even though Trump has raised issues the country must deal with, “I can’t imagine how he’ll respond to unforeseen situations. I’m concerned about his style, the way he talks about people, the way he appeals to our lesser emotions.”
Another voter, Judy Steiglitz, said simply: “I’m just praying to God that the best person wins.”

With reporting from Stewart Ain in Long Island, Hannah Dreyfus in Crown Heights, Steve Lipman on the Upper West Side and Forest Hills, Jonathan Mark in Riverdale and Amy Sara Clark in Midwood. The story was written by Stewart Ain.

Inset images: Scenes from Crown Heights, Brooklyn on election day. Hannah Dreyfus/JW

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