ATLANTA (Jul. 21)
While the Democratic National Convention was busy with the coronation of Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis as the party’s standard-bearer in November, pro-Israel lobbyists and Jewish leaders had reason to reflect on the future of Jewish participation in the Democratic Party and in the Dukakis campaign.
Steven Grossman, a key adviser to Dukakis who has become a spokesman for Jewish issues in the campaign, pointed out a significant decrease in Jewish representation among convention delegates since the last convention in San Francisco in 1984.
Four years ago, Jews constituted 9 percent. This year, estimates have ranged from 2 to 6 percent. “The Jewish leadership has got to concentrate on building grass-roots Jewish participation,” Grossman said.
“It is not enough just to contribute money,” he said. “We have got to get more Jews involved in the political process.”
He added, “Clearly, we are doing our job at the highest levels, but that’s not enough.”
There was general recognition at the convention that Jewish Democratic leaders and lobbyists for Israel are very supportive of Dukakis.
That enthusiasm spilled over when Kitty Dukakis was introduced Monday morning with what appeared to be an uncharacteristic endorsement by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby in Washington.
THE NEXT FIRST LADY
Larry Weinberg, chairman emeritus of the AIPAC board and a former Democratic national committeeman, presented her as “the next first lady of the United States.”
AIPAC is bipartisan and its policy is not to endorse candidates for political office of any party.
Steven Rosen, an AIPAC spokesman, was quick to explain that Weinberg’s introduction was “simply an off-hand remark” that did not reflect AIPAC’s official position.
If there is unusual enthusiasm among some Jewish leaders for the Dukakis campaign, it is due, at least partially, to the sizeable number of Jews who have worked closely with Michael and Kitty Dukakis.
They include Susan Estrich, the Dukakis campaign manager; Leonard Zakim, executive director of the New England office of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith in Boston, of which Kitty Dukakis is a board member: Alan Levinthal, campaign finance manager; and Grossman, who is also involved in fund raising.
Also, Robert Lieber, a professor at Georgetown University who is the candidate’s Middle East foreign policy adviser, and Hyman Book-binder, for many years the American Jewish Committee’s Washington representative, who is a key adviser to the campaign. “Kitty Dukakis is Jewish and Michael Dukakis grew up in a highly Jewish neighborhood. We know firsthand how strong is their commitment to issues important to Jews,” Grossman said.
At the same time, he said, “The campaign is aggressively seeking Jewish support. We don’t take the Jewish vote for granted at all.”