They may be keenly disappointed with Barack Obama, but few of the Jewish Democrats polled in an informal telephone survey by NJ Jewish News would consider voting against him in next year’s presidential election.
In a series of interviews conducted before and after Rosh Hashana, voters fault Obama for a variety of reasons, including Middle East policy, the environment, the economy, and a perceived inability to stand up to Republican attacks in Congress.
But no matter how reluctantly they support the president, most say he is preferable to any Republican opponent.
Their comments mirror a survey released last month by the American Jewish Committee, which found a sharp erosion in support for Obama among Jews, but also showed the majority of respondents favoring Obama in a matchup with various Republican candidates.
Janice Schindler, an attorney from Mountain Lakes, told NJJN “I am absolutely going to vote for him again. I think he made mistakes, like every president has made mistakes. But he has a vision for the country I agree with, and if we go back to Republican rule we will be going backwards.
In terms of his handling of Israeli-Palestinian issues, Schindler said “he made a fabulous speech before the United Nations. It is clear his administration stands firmly with Israel. I think Republicans are trying to get the Jewish vote away from him, absolutely, but I don't think they are going to be successful.”
Her husband, Barry, is an equally ardent Democrat who chairs the Israel Advocacy Subcommittee at Congregation Agudath Israel of West Essex in Caldwell. “I believe some Republicans are trying to make this a Republican issue. There is nothing he has done that has been anti-Israel. There is no way I wouldn't vote for him again,” he told NJJN.
“People were very upset with his speech at the university in Cairo. But fast forward. Listen to his speech at the U.N.” said Schindler. “This was the most pro-Israel speech made by an American president since the creation of Israel. He is a man who is conflicted. He very much believes in the state of Israel. But he believes that the way to solve the Palestinian-Israeli issue is to try to bring Israel back to the table. The Palestinians are clearly not at the table, but the message he wants to send to Israel is ‘you also have to do your part.’”
Philip Eisner, an environmentalist from Summit, is supporting Obama but is disappointed in his administration. “He dropped the ball on climate change. He has not done a good or decisive job in attacking Republicans. He is too conciliatory toward them, but I don’t see any other alternatives,” he told NJJN.
In terms of Obama’s dealings with Israel, “Yes, I do have a problem,” said Eisner. “This is a desperate situation for Israel and I don’t see that the United States is helping much. It is a very difficult problem pressuring Netanyahu or the Palestinians, but Obama needs to be publicly more active. He started off with his speech in Cairo, trying to make a case for a more peaceful settlement but since then he has been extremely quiet, and that disturbs me.”
“The jury is out,” said Michele Pomeranz of Bernardsville, a board member at Temple Har Shalom in Warren. “I have not made up my mind. I was a big supporter of Obama’s, but he is losing me, if he has not already lost me. But if he seems to be the best option, I may very well vote for him again.”
Although there is “not really any Republican” Pomeranz finds as an attractive alternative, she said she doesn’t think Obama “has exerted the kind of leadership our country has needed to see. Instead of pulling people together he has pushed them further apart.”
On the matter of Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians, “when he wanted to go back to the old borders, that was really disturbing to me,” she said.
Wendy Greenspan, a speech pathologist from Scotch Plains, said she does not see “any big difference in the level of support for Israel between Democrats and Republicans. It looks like Obama may lose some support in the Jewish community, but he won’t be losing my support.”
Greenspan did confess to “some disappointment” with the president. “One of the issues very important to me is the environment, and he has not been strong and forceful enough in pursuing an environmental platform. But he is still better than what a Republican would be,” she said.
Roslyn Blau, a member of the Democratic Committee in her hometown of Mountainside, told NJJN, “I was a real ardent supporter in 2007 and 2008 but I feel somewhat disappointed. I thought he was more of a politician than he is. I thought he knew how to get more things through Congress than he did. He gave away half of the ship. He has been way too conciliatory.”
But like most others surveyed, Blau said, “I can’t imagine voting for any of the Republicans. I worked really hard for him last time; will I work for him again? I don’t know.”