Voices From The Polls: In City And Suburb, Jewish Voters Speak Out


Across a storm-battered city and suburbs on Monday, Jewish voters went to the polls in substantial numbers, and shared their opinions about their choices.

“As a Jew, there’s no way I vote for the man in the White House right now,” said Leonard Daniels, 48, who is currently looking for work and has an accounting degree, as he voted on the Upper West Side at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul on 86th Street.

“He’s a smart man, I’ll give him that. Instead of social schemes, he should be working on infrastructure: Protection, safety, sanitation, infrastructure. That’s what government should be doing.”

But Allen Blustine, 70, a clarinetist, said he was “an old-time lefty. Have you ever heard of socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor? I don’t understand what all these people are saying … You can’t turn the economy around in four years. And what about abortion rights? This is 2012, not 1815.”

In Forest Hills, a Queens neighborhood with a large population of Modern Orthodox Jews and émigrés from the former Soviet Union, particularly Uzbekistan, voters indicated a clear preference for Romney –or rather, against Obama.

“No-bama!” shouted attorney Stephan J. Siegel, as he stepped out of the polling place at P.S. 175 The Lynn Gross Discovery School.

“He hates America, he hates Jews, he hates Israel – he’s not a friend of Israel,” Siegel said of the incumbent. Obama, he added, “has no idea how to run a country.

“My choice? How about f–k Obama,” declared another voter, a young Orthodox Jew accompanied by his mother, who declined to give his name. “Just say, ‘A guy with a kipa,’ ” he suggested.

In Long Island’s West Hempstead, Joe Varon, a retired special education teacher, offered a list of reasons why he was supporting Obama.

“Among the most important is health care for all Americans,” said Varon. “Protecting our global environment, taking climate change and global warming seriously, stopping mountaintop removal and opposing dirty coal, supporting clean renewable energy, objecting to the Keystone Pipeline from Canada, marriage equality for all, women's rights and his support for our allies and the state of Israel.”

Also in West Hempstead, Shlomit Metz, 41, a lawyer said she was crossing party lines to vote Republican.

“I have always been a registered Democrat but am voting for Romney,” she said. “ I am also a woman who happens to be gay and lucky enough to be married in New York State, a state which values my family and I as human beings. Abortion and gay rights are very important to me, but they are not presidential issues. They are legislative and judicial ones. People need to move past these social causes and refocus on the importance of the economic needs of this country and our international relationships; two issues Obama has so severely underserved – if at all.”

As a dual Israeli-American citizen, Metz said that while she does not agree with everything Romney stands for, “when the President has no time for [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu because he needs to appear on popular TV shows and attend fundraisers, that is the act of a President that speaks volumes to the world. It sends a clear message to the international community as to what little value he places on the relationship America has with Israel. That is a very dangerous thing in times like these. “

Jason Finegold, 47, also a West Hempstead resident and a social worker, said he opposed Romney because “to me he represents the big corporation mentality that I have come to despise. Obama isn't a perfect choice but he's not Romney.

Furthermore, with a special needs child and a career as a social worker, i believe that Obama would better represent my needs and values.”

Ellen Rosin, from Yonkers, says she voted for Obama, primarily on domestic issues, such as the economy and the women's health issues. As for Israel, she wondered if Romney, with all his position-shifting, could actually be counted on for anything. But Israel was more than a security issue for her, it reflected on her domestic needs, as well.

She said her sister, who lives in Israel, couldn't believe how much less of a social-services net Americans have compared to Israel, where health care is heavily subsidized, compared to what Americans have to pay toward health insurance, and how much more tuitions are subsidized in Israel.

Israeli-Americans, voting in Israel for Romney, she said, can afford to vote just on geopolitical issues because they have more entitlements than Americans can ever dream of. “All those Israelis supporting Romney would be in open revolt if Israel rolled back their entitlements the way Romney wants to in the United States."

Sharona, a woman voting in Riverdale, split her ticket: Romney for president, Democrat Eliot Engel for the House and Kirsten Gillenbrand for Senate, because of her confidence that Romney would be better on foreign affairs — particularly Israel.

She sees the virtue in keeping either party from dominating Washington. But Sharona did have domestic concerns, and she didn't quite see what the Democrats have done for the middle class or the poor. "At heart, I'm a Democrat. I'm also a Jew," concerned about "not just military threats to Israel but the delegitimization of Israel" on the Democratic left.

Sharona's Romney vote was reinforced "by the booing of Jerusalem at the Democratic convention," Obama's "mishandling of Benghazi," and Obama's "one-sided pressure on Israel," such as demanding, early in his term, a "freeze on Jewish natural growth in Jerusalem's Old City and the West Bank" while making "no analagous demands on the Palestinians."

Reporting by Helen Chernikoff, Adam Dickter, Steve Lipman and Jonathan Mark