American Jews are re-evaluating their support for President Obama and the Democrat Party. Although Jewish voters historically gravitate to the American Left, there is a noticeable shift in their voting behavior of late.
What best explains this?
Many Jews are disgruntled with Obama’s poor treatment of Israel. In 2011, President Obama called for Israel to return to pre-1967 borders – a move criticized by many for suggesting Israel return to “indefensible ‘Auschwitz’ borders.” This sentiment was affirmed in NY-09’s special election to replace disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner – a contest in a heavily Jewish, pro-Israel district. Bob Turner campaigned as the pro-Israel candidate and later went on to defeat his Democrat challenger.
Israel is not the only issue concerning American Jews. Although Jews voted for Barack Obama over John McCain 78% to 21% in 2008, the American Jewish Committee’s 2011 survey of Jewish opinion revealed that many are abandoning Obama. Here is a summation of the survey’s findings: Jewish voters disapproved of Obama’s job performance 48% to 45%, disapproved of his handling of the economy 60% to 37%, disapproved of his handling of immigration 49% to 43%, and disapproved of his treatment of U.S.-Israel relations 53% to 40%.
Another development could sway Jews to the Right this November. According to Newsmax, a forthcoming book entitled “Herbert Hoover and the Jews: The Origins of the ‘Jewish Vote’ and Bipartisan Support for Israel” reveals that President Herbert Hoover and the Republican Party first reached out to Jews and worked to help Holocaust victims.
TheCollegeConservative’s own David Milstein, also the president of Young Jewish Conservatives, is encouraged by this news. I recently asked David his thoughts on Jewish voters, conservatism, and his organization’s plans for the upcoming election.
Hoffman: David, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to interview you. What is Young Jewish Conservatives (YJC), and what is its purpose?
Milstein: Gabriella, thank you for taking the time to interview me. My name is David Milstein and I am the president of Young Jewish Conservatives (YJC). YJC is a new national grassroots organization of politically conservative young Jews. Our mission is to unite politically conservative young Jews and provide them with the tools and education to advocate for conservative causes. We are proud to call ourselves conservatives and seek to strengthen the conservative movement.
We recognize the fact that young Jews who share our values deserve to have a community that respects, supports and defends their values. For too long, young Jews have been maligned for being conservative and have had to hide their beliefs from the public square. YJC is here to reverse this tread and help spread conservatism to each new generation of young Jews.
We seek to educate young Jews and those within our communities about the importance of Zionism and the ever-growing effort to delegitimize Israel. Twice a year we offer subsidized, intensive advocacy training trips to Israel. We train and assist our members to uncompromisingly and effectively combat the growing anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment on their campuses and within their communities. YJC will push each member to understand the necessity to stand up and be outspoken advocates for conservatism, Judaism and Israel. We stand ready to be the voice for young, conservative Jews in the public square.
Hoffman: It is a known fact that Jews overwhelmingly align with the Democrat Party. Given Obama’s call for Israel to “return to pre-1967 borders” and this administration’s poor treatment of the nation, how can Jewish conservatives convince their cohorts—young and old—to switch parties?
Milstein: It is true that most Jews vote Democratic. In the 2008 election, President Obama received about 80% of the Jewish vote. But the difference between 2008 and 2012 is that now there is a clear, anti-Israel record from the President that will prove to many Jews across the country he is no friend of Israel. It is our job to expose his record.
Here are a few examples. First, President Obama has repeatedly abandoned Israel, taking on the Palestinian narrative that is based on false premises with the goal of delegitimizing Israel. For the first time, he made building homes in Jerusalem and areas of the West Bank somehow an obstacle to peace. He has backtracked from his promise of a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. When asked, the US State Department won’t even say Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. At the same time, it is clear someone is leaking multiple stories about Israel’s plans to defend itself against a nuclear Iran. It seems Obama has spent more time trying to dissuade Israel from defending itself than ensuring Iran doesn’t get the capability to build a nuclear weapon.
He broke with decades of American policy on the “peace process” demanding that negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians begin based on indefensible 1967 lines, which again entirely embraces the Palestinian position. This would not only divide Jerusalem closing off access to Jewish holy sites, it would leave Israel with indefensible borders and a northern width of only eight miles wide. It is because of Obama’s anti-Israel positions that the Palestinians felt emboldened to take their bid for statehood to the UN. The administration has been virtuously silent as the PA is seeking to join a unity government with Hamas. Their only response has been to go around Congress to increase aid to the PA and anti-Israel bodies in the UN like UNESCO and the Human Rights Council.
It is up to us to speak up in defense of Israel. In this upcoming election, YJC and other pro-Israel organizations will tell the truth and expose Obama’s real record on Israel. We will do everything we can to ensure the Jewish communities across the country are informed about his anti-Israel positions. The main message is simple: Jews must look at his actions, not his words. His actions are what matter and they show a very different story.
Hoffman: Does YJC exclusively focus on Israel, or does it also promote conservative tenets like limited government, traditional values, and strong national defense?
Milstein: Our exclusive focus is not just on Israel. As we do steadfastly support Israel, we are also equally dedicated to conservatism and promoting such values. We believe in a limited government whose powers are strictly enumerated in the Constitution and a strong national defense. We believe in a society that promotes economic freedom and equal opportunity, not equal outcome. YJC wants to set an example and make it acceptable for Jews to be conservatives. We believe that being politically conservative Jews imposes upon us the responsibility not to hide our values but to stand proud and promote our values among the American Jewish community.
Hoffman: How does YJC differ from the Republican Jewish Coalition and similar groups?
Milstein: RJC is a great organization. As we share many of the same values, our goals are in many ways different. We identify ourselves as conservatives, not Republicans. All of our efforts are focused on convincing the next generation of young Jews to move to the Right. As some of our efforts will certainly complement one another, YJC has been established to be the grassroots organization for young, Jewish conservatives.
Hoffman: Describe the Yameena Israel Fellowship. How does it differ from Birthright and conventional Israel trips? What can young conservative Jews expect if they go on this trip?
Milstein: A central aspect of Young Jewish Conservatives is our Yameena Israel Fellowship program. Twice a year, we lead students on a free trip to Israel. The trip is very different from birthright. The goals of the trip include bringing together politically active students, hold Israel advocacy training, gain a greater grasp of Jewish tradition and Israel’s history, connect conservatism with Judaism and see firsthand the security threats posed against Israel. We fulfill all of these goals by visiting historical sites, traveling all across Israel and meeting with top Israeli government officials. When students arrive home, they are then expected to advocate for Israel and be even more politically involved within their community or college campus.
In fact, if there are students who would like to join us on our trip this summer, they should visit our website to apply: http://youngjewishconservatives.org. The deadline is fast approaching and the trip is free!
Hoffman: YJC has had several successful events thus far, including a well-attended Shabbat at CPAC 2012. Do you have similar events planned in the future?
Milstein: YJC had a very successful event at CPAC. We held the first ever Shabbat service, bringing together more than 100 CPAC attendees to celebrate Shabbos. There is a great article in the Algheimer Jewish newspaper called, “Young Jewish Conservatives Make a Name for Themselves at CPAC.” In the future, we plan on holding similar religious events at conservative conferences. We want conservatives and the media to know there is a growing organization of conservative Jews. Some of our other initiatives include hosting conference calls with prominent conservative leaders, create a speakers bureau for students, help students get an internship in politics and become a very active player in social media.
Hoffman: Since Obama is up for re-election this year, does YJC have any projects geared toward defeating him in November?
Milstein: YJC plans to be very active during the upcoming election. We will be launching projects in pivotal swing states directly focused on the Jewish community. Our projects will expose Obama’s anti-Israel record and explain why his policies have failed. We are continuously looking to recruit new members, so contact us if you want to help in our 2012 efforts. We believe there is an opportunity to convince members of the Jewish community to move to the Right. For the sake of a strong Israel and prosperous America, President Obama must be defeated in 2012.