Iowa Jews weigh who would be best for Israel ahead of caucus

"You have a lot of Jews in town that are Bernie, Biden, and Klobuchar supporters," Chabad Rabbi Yosef Jacobson said.

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) arrives to address the overflow crowd at a Get Out the Caucus rally in Indianola, Iowa, U.S., February 2, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/BRIAN SNYDER)
Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) arrives to address the overflow crowd at a Get Out the Caucus rally in Indianola, Iowa, U.S., February 2, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/BRIAN SNYDER)
DES MOINES, Iowa – Marc Daniels is standing outside Pete Buttigieg’s rally in a local gym and trying to sell pink yarmulkes with the former mayor’s name printed on, but to no avail. “I sold a couple of Trump yarmulkes to Trump supporters,” he tells The Jerusalem Post. It’s not the first election cycle in which Daniels, from Springfield, Illinois, attended rallies to sell his merchandise. In 2016, his Hebrew “Make America Great Again” yarmulke was a hit in every rally.
“Jews purchase Mike Bloomberg kippot ahead of Pete and [Elizabeth] Warren,” he told the Post. He also identified as a supporter of Michael Bloomberg. “Because he’s a businessman. He’s Jewish, which means he has some “sechel” [wisdom in Hebrew]. And he understands the need for people willing to take risks to build something. I think that he has a fair chance of taking it because of all the advertising he’s doing.”
Marc Daniels sells political-themed kippot at the 2020 Iowa caucuses (Credit: Omri Namias)Marc Daniels sells political-themed kippot at the 2020 Iowa caucuses (Credit: Omri Namias)
The candidates were competing in Monday’s Iowa caucus, the first leg of the marathon race toward the Democratic nomination for president and the right to take on US President Donald Trump. Former South Bend, Indiana mayor Buttigeg; Senators Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Amy Klobuchar and former vice president Joe Biden were among the candidates for the caucus. Former New York City mayor Bloomberg, the last to join the race, did not compete.
Asked how Bloomberg could win without being on the ballot in the first four states, Daniels said that he doesn’t need to campaign in early states to win the nomination. “He is going to be the McDonald’s of politics. He’s going to spend so much money that he’s going to win over people through communication and repetition. He is the polar opposite of Donald Trump.”
Rabbi Yosef Jacobson has been the Chabad representative in Iowa for the past 28 years. He also runs a kosher deli named “Maccabi” that offers sandwiches and Kosher food from the Holy Land, such as chocolate-covered Matzah, Bamba, and frozen burekas. Being in Des Moines for such a long period, he has seen a thing or two in local politics.
“It used to be black or white, up or down,” he said. “Now there’s tribal movements, like everyone is trying to get their movements to dominate everyone else. It’s not so much what’s best for the future. It’s what the moment is.”
“You have a lot of Jews in town that are Bernie, Biden and Klobuchar supporters,” Jacobson says. “Most of the community here are Democrat and those who are Republican, you don’t know who they are. They keep it in secret,” he jokes.
“I’m an Independent,” Rabbi Jacobson continues. “I’m even struggling if I should for the caucus, go with any of the Democrats because I love them all. I like them all. I’m still undecided.
“Biden would be the best for Israel,” he added. “The Democrats, every one of them, thinks that they know better what’s for Israel, better than [Blue and White leader] Benny Gantz or [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. And they’re going with that attitude. And with that arrogance, they want the Israelis to believe they’re the best ones. Bernie believes he’s the best one for Israel because he knows what’s best for Israel.”
Jared Bernstein is a member of the conservative Synagogue Tiferet Israel and the immediate past president of the Jewish Federation of Des Moines. He is also a registered Democrat.
Asked what the most important issue for him is when considering which candidate to support, he said that it is mostly about the ability to beat Trump in November’s national elections, but also about domestic policy and foreign policy. “If you look on the domestic policy side, I think candidates like Warren and Sanders are way too out there,” he told the Post. “They are proposing things that can never get done in Washington, and I don’t think they would lead the country in the right direction.”
“And when it comes to Israel, I’m much more moderate, and I really like the history that Biden has with Israel,” he added. “I liked the things that Buttigieg has had to say about Israel. But you look at the relationship that especially Bernie Sanders, but also to an extent, Warren and their supporters have with Israel, is certainly not in line with my views.”
He told the Post that Biden might not pass the 15% threshold in his precinct. “I’m going to be caucusing for Biden, and it’s possible based on where I live and my caucus location that he won’t be viable in the first round. I’m in a much more liberal area – the Drake University neighborhood. It’s a younger population with a lot of energy here for both Warren and Buttigieg. So if Biden is not viable in the first round, I’m planning to move over to Buttigieg.”
Speaking about the Jewish community in Des Moines, Bernstein said that the small, 3,000 people community is diverse and moderate, compared to liberal cities such as New York and San Francisco.
“One way of talking about it when it comes to Israel, it’s definitely more of an AIPAC community than it is a J Street community,” he added.


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