Uriel Heilman, managing editor of JTA, will present “Jews and the 2012 Presidential Election: What’s Different This Time Around?” at Adath Shalom Synagogue in Morris Plains on Sunday, April 22.
Heilman, who writes and coordinates the global Jewish news agency’s domestic and international coverage, has also served as bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post, where he was awarded the 2006 Boris Smolar Award for Excellence in Investigative Reporting.
He is the recipient of five awards from the American Jewish Press Association and a prize from the Society of Professional Journalists, and his work has appeared in publications around the world. Heilman has reported from the Middle East, the United States, Europe, South America, and Africa.
In his presentation, Heilman will offer insight on the perceived rightward shift of the Jewish vote; Jewish positions on Obamacare, aid to education, and Iraq; and Israel’s impact on the Jewish electorate.
The program is a joint sponsorship of Adath Shalom’s continuing education committee, sisterhood, and men’s club and the Community Relations Committee of MetroWest and Central New Jersey.
In advance of his appearance, Heilman answered some questions.
What’s the most interesting discussion you ever had with a politician?
Heilman: I’ve had lots of interesting discussions with politicians over the years, from an intimate chat with Shaul Mofaz, the new leader of Israel’s Kadima Party, about his unconventional solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a discussion with Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, about how much of her job is occupied by Israel.
But perhaps the most interesting conversation was an hour-long, one-on-one interview with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2003. In that interview, Bloomberg offered insights into his management style, what he thinks a city should be, and what’s wrong with the press. I didn’t agree with a lot of what he said, but it certainly offered a fascinating window into one of this era’s most influential men. [For Heilman’s story resulting from that conversation, visit urielheilman.com/bloomberg.html.]
What effect have the Republican presidential primaries had on the American-Jewish vote?
Heilman: Mostly, it’s a reminder of how little the Jewish vote matters in the Republican primary race. Most Jews live in so-called “blue states” — New York, California, etc. Even in key battleground states like Florida, Jews made up less than 1 percent of GOP primary voters. Simply put, Jewish votes are not a factor in the Republican primary race. Jewish money, however, is. The biggest factor was Sheldon Adelson’s $10 million to PACs supporting Newt Gingrich, but it doesn’t look like it has had much lasting effect.
What is your reaction to what you’ve seen so far in the run-up to the election?
Heilman: The primaries thus far have been a sad reminder of the lack of openness on all sides, the absence of open, honest, non-ideological discussions and debates about the great challenges facing America today. It seems like the political culture is more calcified than ever.
We’ve been hearing about the increasingly Christian evangelical makeup of AIPAC. How is that relationship working out in regard to the upcoming election?
Heilman: Christian evangelicals indeed are a growing constituency within AIPAC, but they are still far outnumbered by Jews. And AIPAC will forever ensure that that will remain the case so that AIPAC is not seen as outsiders to the Jewish community. On the broader issue, evangelicals are having a growing impact on U.S. electoral politics. The pandering about Israel we’ve been hearing during the Republican primary campaign is not directed simply toward Jewish voters, but to the millions of evangelicals for whom Israel is an issue of great importance.