January 31, 2008
So Cal Jews’ primary colors are red and blue
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Greenfield has been traveling up and down the state trying to convince voters that Republicans really are good for the Jews. He's won some converts over the past few years, growing his membership from about 1,500 to 8,000. And the key selling point, the policy issue he repeats over and over, is that Republicans just do national defense better. That means, he argues, we will be safer, and Israel will be safer, with a Republican in the White House.
"There are obviously some lifelong Democrats who are not going to shift," he said as he sat down for an interview after the debate. "But I hear all the time that they could vote for a Republican."
"McCain is the only Republican I could vote for," Marilyn Kritzer, one of those lifelong Democrats and the organizer of the debate and luncheon, chimed in.
Certainly there has been enthusiasm in the Jewish community for McCain, a hawk on defense who has a long record of stiff support for Israel. He earned the endorsement of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), a centrist with foreign policy views similar to his own, and quite a bit of fantasizing was indulged in December at the Orthodox Union's West Coast Torah Convention when talk show host Michael Medved entertained the possibility of a McCain-Lieberman ticket.
Other Republican Jews have gotten behind the candidacy of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whom RJC took on a tour of Israel last year.
"Most Republicans care about shared values, and he has very strong values," Charlie Spies, CFO and general counsel for Romney for President, said of the Mormon candidate. "Whether you are an Orthodox Jew, conservative Catholic or evangelical, we have much more in common than divides us."
But the person that was being spoken of most effusively by California's Republican Jewish leadership -- though not officially because they don't endorse until after the primaries -- was Giuliani.
"I've saved the best for last," Greenfield said during the debate at Ner Tamid. "Rudy Giuliani, who has been fighting Palestinian terrorism for 30 years. He is the most hands-on, most closely aligned-with-the-Jewish-community candidate I have ever seen."
Giuliani ended his campaign Wednesday afternoon, a few hours before the Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, and threw his support behind McCain. Republican Jews were drawn to Giuliani largely because of his performance on Sept. 11, 2001, and his subsequent tough talk on terror. Of the remaining Republicans, McCain is the closest comparison and should have control of the Republican Jewish vote.
"People don't want to talk about Sept. 11, but that image is burned into my mind, and I remember what he did and what he said when all hell broke loose in New York," said David Slomovic, who changed his voter registration in December and volunteered for Giuliani's campaign. "I remember watching with my wife him speaking, staying calm, giving it to us straight. I remember him ensuring New Yorkers that New York would be there tomorrow, that they would be strong, and they would be an example to Americans and the world that they would not be defeated by terrorism. He was the voice of America to me."
Slomovic sat at his desk in an office surrounded by pictures of his family, Giuliani promotions and a poster of the movie "300." "I've got three beautiful kids, a beautiful wife, and that's why I'm here: The future."
He is exactly the type of voter the RJC was trying to convert: a guilt-filled liberal who was fiscally conservative and, above all else, shares their opinion that Islamic terror is the most important issue of our time.
Slomovic wore a light blue shirt rolled to the sleeves, with a white long-sleeve shirt running down to his wrists, and the baggy eyes of a long day. He was polite, if a bit stiff, as he dialed bit by bit through a ream of phone lists.
Once the frontrunner in California, Giuliani watched his popularity plummet. Only 13 percent of Republicans planned to vote for him, according to an L.A. Times/CNN/Politico poll released this week. McCain, who is leading the pack in California, has 39 percent support, making Slomovic's cold calls that much more frustrating.
"Hey David, what if it's 'I'm not a Republican?" a volunteer named Gary Klein asked.
"That's not a sin," Slomovic responded.
Another volunteer disagreed. "Tell him, 'F--- you,'" he said, and then left for the night.
It is an unusually personal story for politics, but it's one that indebted Daphna Ziman to then-first lady Hillary Clinton.
In the early 1990s, Ziman was touring a homeless mission when a 5-year-old girl captivated her. She had been abused, and after the girl was treated at a hospital, she was put in Ziman's foster care. But then a parental hearing was held. "The judge said he was going to give the crack mom parenting classes and then return this little girl. I said, 'Over my dead body.'"
Ziman decided to appeal to everyone she knew in Washington, and even some she didn't. One of those people was Hillary Clinton, who advised Ziman on what she should do. In a Talmudic sense, it felt to Ziman, who adopted the girl as her daughter, as if Clinton had saved the world.
"She didn't know me from a bar of soap," said Ziman, who was inspired by the process to found Children Uniting Nations. "When people ask me, 'How come you can give so much and do so much?' -- If the first lady of the United States, who is so overloaded everyday, can do that to save one child, it is the least I can do."