Swing state rabbis reflect on election

Click photo to download. Caption: A Republican Jewish Coalition billboard in South Florida. Credit: RJC.(JNS.org) The battle for the Jewish vote in the 2012 election was hotly contested in the swing states of Florida, Ohio, Nevada and Pennsylvania, with the Republican Jewish Coalition running a $5 million “Buyer’s Remorse” television advertising campaign in those states that featured Jews who supported President Barack Obama in 2008 but regretted that decision.

RJC’s advertising in swing states—which also included “Obama…Oy Vey!!” billboards in South Florida—totaled $6.5 million. But Obama, the eventual election winner, garnered 66 percent of the Jewish vote in the Sunshine State, according to exit polling.

Rabbi David Steinhardt of B’nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton, Fla., told JNS.org election season was “a very, very challenging period of time and a very difficult campaign.” In his congregation, however, Steinhardt said “people were really respectful of each other in the conversation, surprisingly so, looking at how things began.” Steinhardt said much of the pro-Obama sentiment in his community was “quiet support,” as opposed to the more aggressive approach of Romney supporters during the race. 

Rabbi Misha Zinkow of Temple Israel in Columbus, Ohio, recalled the intense campaign in his state.

“From our vantage point here in Ohio, the campaign was caustic, exploited people’s worst fears, and was even insulting to the intelligence of voters,” Zinkow told JNS.org. “As a result, here and across the country, [Obama] will have much healing to do.”

Zinkow is also “concerned that our country’s most vulnerable will become the victims of political extremism and ideological intransigence.”

Rabbi Mitchell Levine of Congregation Agudas Achim, also in Columbus, described “a season of robust political debate” that was “healthy for democracy.” While the election will not likely solve what Levine called an “underlying problem of political gridlock,” Jews still used the process to “remain a unified people,” he told JNS.org. 

In New Hampshire, Rabbi Joshua Segal of Congregation Betenu in Amherst told JNS.org it was his sense that “on social issues the Jewish community would never even consider Romney,” and that the greater Jewish community “was very pleased with Obama.” 

Posted on November 7, 2012 .