Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Jewish voters cautious on Obama

PEMBROKE PINES — When Barack Obama's senior adviser on the Middle East took the microphone one Wednesday morning, he should have had it easy.

The topic? Obama's support of Israel. The sponsors? The local Democratic Club and Obama's campaign. The setting? The local synagogue.

"It might have taken a while for the Jewish community to get to know Obama," Daniel Shapiro told a group of 150 Jews at the Pembroke Pines Century Village, "but I think we're going to come out for him."

What followed was brief but awkward: Some clapped; others stared into the onion bagel crumbs on their plates.

"This is an important election that's going to shape America … but I just haven't decided yet," said 55-year-old Alan Oshinsky, one of a handful of people who left the synagogue still contemplating a vote for Sen. John McCain.

Each week, the Obama campaign wins over a few more Jews in its redoubled efforts to woo this usually dependable bloc of Democratic voters in Florida.

Several who attended Shapiro's speech last week said they believe many in South Florida's older Jewish communities are still suspicious of Obama. And the reasons are complex.

The tensions go back decades, said Jacques Berlinerblau, director of the Program for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University. It's the skirmishes after the fracturing of the civil rights coalition; it's Andrew Young, the country's first African-American ambassador to the United Nations, meeting illegally with the Palestine Liberation Organization; or it's Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan criticizing Jews.

"This is a generation of Jews that remembers and won't let go," Berlinerblau said.

Many older Jews also don't care for nuances in Obama's Middle East stance of being willing to meet with "appropriate Iranian leaders," as Shapiro explained to Jewish voters in Century Village. Berlinerblau said they'd prefer a hard-line, no-diplomacy route.

Still, McCain's choice of socially conservative Gov. Sarah Palin for a running mate has spurred some Jews to reconsider Obama.

"I wanted to be sure about Obama," said 63-year-old Fran Williams of Century Village in Deerfield Beach. "Palin helped me a lot with that."

Recently, South Florida Jews received calls from a poll funded by the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington that said it was testing its message by posing negative questions about Obama. Democrats called it push-polling, a tactic that's intended to spread fear and rumors.

Many hard-core Obama supporters at Century Village pressed Shapiro to explain why Obama isn't striking back harder.

"He's really got to be, really, a bit tougher," said Matthew Uttal, 57. "It's fine to be cerebral. But most of America isn't. Are we here to win or are we here to play?"

Jewish voters cautious on Obama 09/23/08 [Last modified: Sunday, September 28, 2008 12:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Florida education news: Computer coding, guidance counseling, career planning and more

    Blogs

    SESSION STARTERS: State Sen. Jeff Brandes refiles legislation to allow Florida high school students to swap computer coding for foreign language credits.

  2. Rays morning after: Offense showing some life

    Blogs

     

  3. Protectors of Confederate statue readied for a battle that never materialized

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Big Dixie flags were waving. County employees had erected a barrier around the Confederate soldier statue at Main and Broad streets. Roads and parking areas were blocked off. Uniformed local officers and federal law enforcement patrolled.

    Police tape and barricades surround the Confederate statue in Brooksville.
  4. Manhattan Casino choice causes political headache for Kriseman

    Growth

    ST. PETERSBURG — Days before the mayoral primary, Mayor Rick Kriseman's decision to let a Floribbean restaurant open in Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino has caused political angst within the voting bloc he can least afford to lose: the black community.

    Last week Mayor Rick Kriseman chose a Floribbean restaurant concept to fill Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino. But that decision, made days before next week's mayoral primary, has turned into a political headache for the mayor. Many residents want to see the building's next tenant better reflect its cultural significance in the black community. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  5. FSU-Bama 'almost feels like a national championship game Week 1'

    Blogs

    The buzz is continuing to build for next Saturday's blockbuster showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Florida State.