What’s a Jewish Republican to do?


WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (JTA) — If you are a Jewish Republican, you might want a leader who would support school vouchers, encourage fiscal conservatism, protect values, strengthen Israel and want to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

Sounds like Sen. Joseph Lieberman.

In fact, the man Al Gore picked to be his running mate is someone Republicans have trouble attacking and Jews may find difficult to stay away from.

The campaign of Texas Gov. George W. Bush stressed the differences between Gore and Lieberman and has even gone so far as to paint Lieberman as akin to a Republican.

“Al Gore has chosen a man whose positions are more similar to Gov. Bush’s than to his own,” Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

Lieberman responded to those charges Tuesday when he was officially introduced as Gore’s running mate.

Republicans “responded to the news that Al Gore had picked me by saying that George Bush and I think alike,” Lieberman said. “With all due respect, I think that’s like saying that the veterinarian and the taxidermist are in the same business because either way you get your dog back.”

Will the historic choice of the first Jew on a national party ticket make any difference at the polls for Jewish Republicans come November?

“I doubt if Jewish Republicans will change their minds,” says Murray Friedman, an American Jewish historian who heads the American Jewish Committee office in Philadelphia.

The real meaning of Lieberman’s selection, Friedman said, is that it shows Jews are moving toward the right, though he admitted that Gore may pick up 1 or 2 percent more of the Jewish vote now that he has an Orthodox Jew at his side.

Gore is expected to win around 80 percent of the Jewish vote.

Friedman believes that ultimately Jewish voters will go the polls with their eyes focused on the choice for president, not vice president.

Nevertheless, some of Lieberman’s policy stances will most likely appeal to Jewish Republicans.

Lieberman has advocated pilot programs where the federal government would provide parents with vouchers to use to pay their children’s tuition at private or parochial schools. He also has hinted at privatization of Social Security, led a fight against violence in the entertainment industry and championed a strengthening of national defense.

In a statement, the Republican Jewish Coalition also contrasted Lieberman’s positions with Gore’s. The RJC questioned what Lieberman was doing in the “party of Al Sharpton, the party that refuses to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the party that opposes parental choice in education.”

Jewish Republicans are bursting with pride that a fellow Jew got the call, said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks, “but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to vote for him.”

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