TAMPA, Florida – For Barack Obama in 2008, it was “Hope and change.” For
Jewish Republicans in 2012, it’s “Oy vey!”
On the Obama campaign’s now iconic
background image of concentric blue and white demi-circles and red and white
arcing stripes, the Republican Jewish Coalition has superimposed the classic
Yiddish expression of dismay to make a competing campaign button.
Tampa, that sentiment isn’t confined to the glossy type of the buttons, which
were being passed out Wednesday at an RJC reception on the sidelines of the GOP
convention that topped 400 people, according to the
Republican Jews in Tampa are expressing a mixture of
anxiety and disgruntlement with the Democratic president that RJC executive
director Matt Brooks wants to galvanize toward playing a significant role in the
“I think there’s real concern in the Jewish community about the
president,” Brooks said of a worry that he believes extends beyond GOP
“There’s buyer’s remorse in the Jewish community.”
has started an ad campaign with erstwhile Obama voters expressing their change
of heart – though some Obama supporters have raised questions about the
Democratic bona fides of the vote-switchers.
That’s only one part of what
the RJC is billing as the “largest campaign ever undertaken in the Jewish
Brooks, who spoke with reporters before heading to the
reception, said the $6.5-million effort will include two days of door-to-door
outreach next month in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, as well as 2 million
pieces of mail delivered to prospective Jewish voters as well. He’s expecting
hundreds of volunteers, including several from out-of-state, to help with the
In addition, the RJC is compiling what it considers “the first
meaningful Jewish voters list.” Brooks explained that instead of just relying on
voting lists compiling residents with common Jews names, the group is investing
considerable money in using telemarketers, consumer data and other sources to
determine who the Jewish voters are in the three key swing states and how
they’re likely to vote.
The RJC isn’t the only Jewish organization
rallying the troops while in Tampa. An organization to increase voting among
American citizens living in Israel is also here to raise the profile of Israel
in voters’ minds.
Elie Pieprz of iVoteIsrael, a group that encourages
Israelis eligible to vote to participate in the US election but does not endorse
either party, said he expects voting rates of Americans in Israel to more than
double this cycle. He was basing his assessment on information received from
counties that have sent absentee ballots to those in Israel as well as the
feedback his organization has received.
He attributed the increase to
strong feelings about Obama, by both supporters and detractors.
said he hoped that making American Jews aware of the urgency Israelis feel about
the current election would help them take what’s happening in Israel into
account more when voting.
“It’s not about who wins or who loses. It’s
about moving Israel up higher on the priority list,” he said, noting that many
American Jews currently weigh other issues more strongly when deciding how to
But for many of the Jews at the reception, Israel was already high
on their agenda. It certainly was a major focus of the 20-odd members of
Congress, several of whom gave speeches, who stopped by the RJC
Former 2012 presidential contender Michele Bachmann, South
Dakota Sen. John Thune, Florida Rep. Allen West and House Majority Leader Eric
Cantor – the highest and only Jewish Republican in Congress – all made
appearances. RJC donor Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam were also spotted by
some as the reception was nearing its end.
But not everyone was receptive
to the event’s pro-Israel message.
Bachmann was interrupted by Code Pink
activist Medea Benjamin, who had entered the reception by registering as a
member of the media. Outside, five more demonstrators donned in pink called out
in opposition to aid to Israel and war with Iran.
posture, however, stood in marked contrast to how most Israelis and
Israel-backers had been greeted in Tampa.
Abraham Katsman, who works for
Republicans Abroad Israel and traveled from Jerusalem to attend the RNC,
described convention-goers as “tripping over each other” to talk to him and tell
him about their positive feelings toward Israel upon finding out he was from the
“It’s inspiring,” he said. “I’m among friends.”
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