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January 31, 2012

Gingrich claims Romney denied kosher meals to Holocaust survivors

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/gingrich_mischaracterizes_romney_veto_as_denying_kosher_meals_to_holocaust_/

Floridians are going to the polls today in the fourth primary of the presidential campaign season. And things are getting really non-kosher between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. I’m not referring to the converting-Jews-to-Christianity event that Gingrich found himself at Sunday.

This post is about Gingrich’s latest robocall, which accuses Romney of forcing Holocaust survivors to eat non-kosher food as he cut expenses from the Massachusetts budget. Here’s the text of the call:

As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney vetoed a bill paying for kosher food for our seniors in nursing homes. Holocaust survivors, who for the first time, were forced to eat non-kosher, because Romney thought $5 was too much to pay for our grandparents to eat kosher. Where is Mitt Romney’s compassion for our seniors? Tuesday you can end Mitt Romney’s hypocrisy on religious freedom, with a vote for Newt Gingrich. Paid for by Newt 2012.

The Romney campaign is saying that the call is an indication that Gingrich’s campaign is at death’s door. In fact, it’s long since come back from the grave. And the call is likely to resonate with some of Florida’s large elderly Jewish population. After all, it implies that even Hitler didn’t deny Jews kosher food (though I think that implication is historically wanting). The robocall is also not an accurate characterization of what happened in Massachusetts.

Commentary explains:

It’s a great campaign line for the former speaker, and the addition about George Soros is a nice touch. The problem is, Romney never actually “eliminated serving kosher food” to Jewish residents at state nursing homes, especially not in the way Gingrich describes.

In 2002, cuts in both federal and state subsidies to assisted living facilities, combined with the rising costs of maintaining the facilities, caused a couple of Massachusetts nursing homes to consider closing their kosher kitchens. It was an unfortunate decision, but there was never actually a concern that kosher residents would be forced to eat non-kosher food – the facilities were weighing several options, including busing in the food from other nursing homes or hiring catering services.

While Romney’s veto of a bill that would have provided $600,000 in funds to nursing homes made him appear insensitive to elderly Jews, Gingrich’s characterization of the veto as denying kosher food to Holocaust survivors has “little basis in reality”—a not uncommon theme for things that come out of the former Speaker’s mouth.

Still, it might work. I’m eager to see exit poll results regarding how Florida Jews vote.

(Hat tip to Huffington Post.)

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