October’s Harpers has an excellent piece by The Hebrew Republic author Bernard Avishai who reminds us of the complex, varied and yes, enlightened Jewish world that is rendered invisible by major institutional Jewry. The ascendancy of a post-race Obama marks a massive generational and cultural power shift in the US. Avishai suggests it might also mark a similar ousting of the old guard among Jews.
By Bernard Avishai
Last May, as he claimed the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama was ahead among Jewish voters 2 to 1. Yet, according to cable-and-blog wisdom, that was a serious problem for him. Jews—you know, “the demographic”—had voted 3 or more to 1 for Clinton, Gore, and Kerry. Jews are only about 2 percent of the population, but they make up almost 4 percent of actual voters. There are, famously, almost half a million Jewish voters in southern Florida alone. If, say, 100,000 defected to McCain, Obama would likely lose the state, even if the chads don’t hang this time. Jews are also nearly 5 percent of the Pennsylvania electorate, which Kerry carried by only 2.5 percent.
After the 1968 election, when Jews voted almost 5 to 1 for Humphrey over Nixon, the late Milton Himmelfarb groused in Commentary that Jews earned like Episcopalians and voted like Puerto Ricans. Are Jews finally growing aloof from the Democratic nominee—come to think of it, like Puerto Ricans—because he is African American? Will his fate hinge, as CNN’s Jack Cafferty suggested, on “a few old Jews in Century Village”? As Obama himself joked at a February meeting with Jews in Cleveland (Ohio is another shaky “battleground”), doesn’t every Jewish family have an uncle skeptical of the schwartzer?