Jewish Journal

Howard Berman, Please Stop Pandering to a Tiny Israeli-American Voter Base

by Pini Herman

June 8, 2012 | 12:55 pm

Doris Huerta and I Worrying About Howard Berman

A couple of weeks ago I made a pledge to Doris Huerta, who with Cesar Chavez organized the United Farm Workers, to do what I could to help Howard Berman get re-elected. As my call to the offices of Berman D’Agostino with a message offering to aid in polling was never returned I will utilize this space to render some free consulting advice as my residence in the Fairfax area won’t enable me to vote for him.

I recently authored a piece at the Jewish Forward on Israeli migration to the U.S. and thoughtful readers, among them a VanEman, who commented on the relatively low numbers of Israelis: “This will probably change now that the US has put Israeli entrepreneurs on the fast track for US immigration.”

This reminded me that it was actually Rep. Howard Berman who spearheaded and sponsored the E-2 Investor Visa bill.  Berman highlighted in his May 25, press release his legislation introduced in February, 3 months before the June 5, primary election. The press release reads: “Added Berman, ‘Israeli investors have a natural home in the San Fernando Valley and Southern California to expand their businesses, hire American workers, and strengthen the economy. Organizations like The Southern California Israel Chamber of Commerce, a non-profit, non-governmental organization encouraging trade and investment opportunities are well positioned to seize on this opportunity.’”

Actually its an E-2 Visa won’t give Israelis any fast track for actual immigration. E-2 visas are temporary visas available to foreign nationals who must be a national of a country with which the United States has a treaty. To qualify for the visa, a foreign national must come to the U.S. in order to develop and direct the operations of a business in which the applicant has invested, or is in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital.

Some of these E-2 Israeli investors will likely join the The Southern California Israel Chamber of Commerce, but that won’t give any of them the ability to vote in U.S. elections.

Unfortunately in this week’s election Democrat Berman’s 32.4 percent of the vote was outpaced by Democrat Brad Sherman’s 42.4 percent of the vote. I think that Berman put a little too much trust in local Israelis bluster that they could swing the vote with their imaginary large number of voters who unfortunately will never show up at any polls. This belief and reliance on a non-existing population base could cost a great politician and asset to the Jewish community his congressional seat that he’s held for almost 3 decades.

This is why demography, which Berman D’Agostino used to excel in, is important. Sherman catered to American Jews and others who are actually there and Berman wasted his resources and pandered to a relatively non-existent Israeli-American voter base. The main topic of the Berman/Sherman debates and campaigning was about who was a greater friend of Israel. Most research shows that Israel is a rather small blip on most Americans’ political radar screens, but a major one for first generation Jewish immigrants, who are not a very large voter base.

Pini Herman, PhD. has served as Asst. Research Professor at the University of Southern California Dept. of Geography,  Adjunct Lecturer at the USC School of Social Work,  Research Director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles following Bruce Phillips, PhD. in that position (and author of the “most recent” 15 year old study of the LA Jewish population which was the third most downloaded study from Berman Jewish Policy Archives in 2011) and is immediate past President of the Movable Minyan a lay-lead independent congregation in the 3rd Street area. Currently he is a principal of Phillips and Herman Demographic Research. To email Pini: pini00003@gmail.com To follow Pini on Twitter:

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Bruce Phillips is Professor of Sociology and Jewish Communal Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. He has conducted Jewish population...

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