Jews in the battleground states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania turned out in large numbers to vote Tuesday, despite rain and long lines in some parts of the country.
In Florida, exit polls by Frank Luntz, who has worked with Republicans in the past, showed that 74 percent of Jews supported Kerry and 23 percent supported Bush.
Robert Glaser, 72, of Boca Raton told The Jewish Week he had considered voting for Bush again but switched to Kerry in the last few weeks.
“I was disappointed that there was no flu vaccine,” he said. “How could that happen? Bush keeps blundering, and there was the stolen arms cache [in Iraq].”
Bea Gold, 85, of Boca Raton said she voted for Kerry because she did not agree with any “any of the principles” Bush stands for.
“What he did with the country is abominable,” she said. “Israel was not a factor [in my vote]. I think that Kerry would be just as effective, regardless of what Mayor [Edward] Koch has said. I think definitely there were some who were swayed by him.”
Reporters at the Cleveland Jewish News in the crucial state of Ohio reported that voters shrugged off the rain and appeared in good spirits. According to Luntz 69 percent of Jews supported Kerry in the Buckeye State and 27 percent supported Bush.
Edith Hirsch of Auburn Lakes said she voted for Kerry as an “anti-Bush” vote and because she likes Kerry’s “nuanced stance on world affairs.” Because of Bush’s “lack of sensitivity,” she added, “pan-Arab anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, anti-American feeling has grown.”
Businessman Mel Morris decided about a month ago to vote for Kerry, believing he “will make us as safe as Bush.” He added: “Kerry is more political. He has a better grasp of reaching out to other countries. [Bush] doesn¹t represent this country well.”
But Tudy Stewart said she voted for Bush because he has been “so aggressive against terrorism … [and] “is the best president for Israel since Harry Truman.”
An active supporter of Magen David Adom, the Jewish Red Cross, Stewart said she made up her mind to vote for Bush after traveling to Israel last April and hearing the Israelis tell her they hoped she would reelect Bush.
Businessman Tim Curtiss of Shaker Heights said he was a longtime supporter of Bush because he is the “superior candidate on both foreign and domestic policy. … I prefer toughness over wishy-washiness in our foreign policy.”
Stockbroker Don Jacobson said he decided to vote for Kerry three months ago because of Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq. And he said he is concerned about the potential nominations the next president will make to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ariella Reback of Pepper Pike voted for John Kerry because she believed he would be a strong supporter of Israel. She added that she believed Kerry would also maintain the separation of church and state.
Benjamin Zober, also of Pepper Pike, said he supported Kerry because of Bush’s autocratic rule.
“Under George Bush, the idea that you could have an opinion contrary to the regime was squashed. I felt alienated. As an American, that is ridiculous,” he said, adding that Bush “did absolutely nothing to merit a second term.”
Tova Messing, a 60-something Beachwood resident, said her Kerry vote was more anti-Bush than pro-Kerry because of her disappointment with “Medicare, hospitalization, women’s right to choose, Supreme Court nominees, and the economy.”
Reporters from New Standard Publications in Columbus spoke with Larry Levine, 46, the president of an apparel company who said he voted for Bush out of concern for national security.
“I’m of the opinion that you can’t worry about church and state and stem cell research if you’re dead,” he said. “There’s a lot of things I don’t like about Bush, but a nuanced approach is not the approach you have with people who want you dead.”
Dr. Bernard Metz of Columbus said that after waiting an hour in line, he voted for Kerry but “with a lot of angst.”
“It was a decision where I was vacillating until I walked into the booth,” he confided.
In another battleground state, Pennsylvania, where exit polls on the Jewish vote were not available, the Jewish Chronicle, published in Pittsburgh, reported that turnout was exceptionally high, with about 30 people waiting in line for the polls to open at the polling station in Shaare Torah synagogue.
Aryeh Melnick, 78, a retired U.S. Steel researcher and an Orthodox Jew, said he voted for Bush because he is against abortion and agrees with Bush’s “moral stance on many issues.”
Harry and Leatrice Abrams, a retired engineer and biochemist respectively, both voted for Kerry. Harry said he was upset with the “lies” Bush told to launch the war on Iraq and his wife complained that Bush “has done everything to polarize this country, from his far right-wing approach, to the secrecy of the government. Anyone who says God talks to him should not be trusted.”
Ion Sukner, 76, formerly of Ukraine, said through a Russian interpreter that she intended to vote for Bush until Monday when she changed her mind.
“People smarter than me are voting for Kerry, so I thought I should listen to them,” she explained.
In Philadelphia, reporters at the Jewish Exponent spoke with Pauline Haufler of Elkins Park who said she voted Republican straight down the line.
“I feel our president has had a tough road to climb,” she said. “No other leader has had to deal with anything like Sept. 11.”
But Kerry-voter Elizabeth Brown of Elkins Park said, “If we have four more years of Bush, we’re doomed as far as international relations go.”
Nicole Liebman, who turned 18 on Oct. 28, said she was “so excited” to cast her first vote for Kerry.
“I’ve been looking forward to this forever,” she said of the opportunity to vote.
Ada Mutch, 99, of Wynnewood said she “always votes Republican” and believes Bush is the best candidate.
“I want someone who’s going to tell the truth,” she said. “Bush always does. I trust him.”