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America's 'Super Tuesday' Primaries and the Jewish Vote

Jewish voters are heavily represented in the 24 U.S. states voting in party primaries on this Super Tuesday.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 2/5/2008, 10:57 AM

Jewish voters are heavily represented in the 24 American states voting in party primaries on this Super Tuesday, with more than half of America's 5.3 million Jews residing in New York, New Jersey and California alone. Illinois and Massachusetts, two other key Super Tuesday states, also have relatively significant Jewish populations.

In addition, American Jews vote at a higher rate than their non-Jewish neighbors and they tend to be more
Jews voting in the Republican primaries... have shown a tendency to support McCain.
politically active. The overwhelming majority of voting-age Jews are registered Democrats, a fact that is expected to play an important role in the hotly contested Democratic primary race between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

A 2007 survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee showed that 53% of American Jews had favorable views of Hillary Clinton, as compared with 38% with such views of Obama. A study carried out by Siena College's Research Institute earlier this year similarly showed that Jews residents in New York prefer Clinton over Obama, 51% to 16%.

On the Republican side of the fence, front-runner Senator John McCain is running against former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Jews voting in the Republican primaries - primarily, although far from exclusively, religiously Orthodox - have shown a tendency to support McCain.

Torah Values and Israel
Leading American Jewish organizations are prohibited from endorsing any of the political candidates standing for election in the United States if they wish to retain their status as charitable institutions. A few national organizations and a few Jewish leaders, however, have expressed their views of what values they'd like to see enhanced by the Democratic and Republican candidates.

Rabbi Yehuda Levin, spokesman for the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the US and Canada (UOR), also known as Agudas HaRabbanim, issued a video statement Monday in which he called for Jewish Americans to avoid voting for a candidate "whose position is in any way antithetical to our Torah based morality."

Specifically, Rabbi Levin said, "Candidates who support abortion on demand, the toeiva agenda, liberal attitudes towards pornography of any sort - are antithetical to our way of life and it is forbidden to support or vote for them." The "toeiva agenda" is generally understood among religious Jews to refer to the homosexual lobby's legislative and social causes.

Adopting an uncompromising position, the UOR head advised, "If one has to vote in an election or primary where both candidates are anti-Biblical family values, G-d forbid.... let the voter cast a write-in protest vote, but do not compromise by voting for the 'lesser evil.' If we value the purity and holiness of our children and grandchildren, we dare not compromise."

Rabbi Levin expressed the hope that "our fellow citizens of all faiths, and their leaders, will draw a line in the sand and institute policies forbidding voting for anti-traditional family values candidates. We are confident that were this policy instituted, within one or two election cycles, we would find many more pro-family candidates on every level of government."

Another key issue for Jewish voters is the US foreign policy towards Israel.
Leading Jewish organizations have kept mum regarding Super Tuesday preferences.

"Israel always has to be an important issue for us," Rabbi Menachem Genack, Kashrut coordinator of the Orthodox Union, told the New Jersey Jewish Standard. "On both the Republican and Democratic side we have to acknowledge the major candidates have pro-Israel policy statements and positions within the context of basic American foreign policy: a two-state solution."

Rabbi Genack is also active in the Clinton campaign and has a close relationship with the former president and his wife, according to the Standard.

An Obama campaign staff member told the Standard: "Barack Obama is a dear and strong friend of the Jewish State of Israel, having announced publicly in many different arenas his commitment to Israel remaining a Jewish state, with no right of return by Palestinians into Israel."

As noted, other leading Jewish organizations have kept mum regarding Super Tuesday preferences, although many have expressed views on specific candidates' policies or statements over the years prior to the candidates' respective election campaigns.