Thursday, May 22, 2008

One Elderly Jew's Passionate Support of Obama

Over the past few months I have had some interesting discussions with a 94-year old Jewish supporter of Barack Obama. The supporter, a prominent real estate developer, was one of the pillars of the Jewish community in his prime. A past president of the local Federation, the Jewish Community Center, and a board member of a big conservative shul, he has led a long and active life of service to the Jewish and non-Jewish communities. I should also mention that he is a life-long liberal, who only once wavered in his support for Democrats, and that was when he supported John Anderson over Jimmy Carter in 1980. (He has come to respect Jimmy Carter in his post-presidency.)

I asked him how he came to support Obama. After all, he seemed to be bucking the demographics: white, elderly, Jewish former businessmen aren't supposed to be in the Obama camp. This is what he told me:

About a year and a half ago, I was given Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope. I didn't know anything about him, except that he had given a good speech at the Democratic Convention. Well, I read that book, and I was amazed by his life story, and by his vision for America. On the strength of that book I decided to support the campaign, and I have continued to do so. If anything, I have become more disenchanted with Hillary Clinton, who has run a negative campaign. She comes nowhere near Obama. Most of the people who don't support him don't really know anything about him.

What about his views on Israel?

All the candidates have similar views on Israel. His is just as positive as the rest.

Are you nervous that, well, as an African-American, he may not always be so favorable to Israel, or for that matter, to the Jews.

Let me tell you something. One of the reasons I support him is because he is an African-American. All my life I have supported the cause of racial equality. For years I gave money to the NAACP. I remember growing up, working in my father's grocery market, which was in a black neighborhood. I was very friendly with a group of young blacks, so much so that they asked me to be a counselor of their group. I said, "But I am not like you." They said, "It don't matter, Bernie, we like you." Once they told me they were going to Hagerstown, and they insisted I go with them, which I did. I believe in treating fairly all people, regardless of their race and their religion. I have believed that all my life.

You know, McCain is pretty moderate, compared with Bush. I suppose you could live with him as president.

I could live with him, but I couldn't support him. He is not, in my opinion, a very bright man. Of course, I respect him for being a prisoner of war -- I served in World War II. But that doesn't mean that he would be a good president.

Joe Lieberman supports him.

Well, I don't like him much either. He should start voting more like a Democrat and stop supporting people like Bush.

You know, I heard that you talked about Obama at the family seder last year.

Yes, I did. When they got to the part of the Haggadah called "Barekh", I said, "Not Barekh, Barack!"

Recently, this elderly gentleman has been suffering from clinical depression, which makes him pessimistic and anxious about Obama's chances. He worries a lot. So I have been trying to cheer him up and give him hope, with a little help from a friend, who is a prominent fundraiser for Obama.

And with a little help from the candidate himself. You see, when Obama heard about Bernie, he sent him a copy of the book he liked so much, The Audacity of Hope. And to help him fight his depression, the candidate inscribed it:

To Bernie,

Keep Dreaming Big Dreams

Barack Obama

Thanks, Barack.

And may you soon recover from your depression, Dad.

3 comments:

Joachim Martillo said...

When I study the history and development of the American Jewish community, I have the impression it was gradually hi-jacked.

By leaving E. Europe, Yiddish immigrants to the USA consciously or unconsciously renounced the extremist voelkisch racist politics of E. Europe.

Even though I can find all sorts of opportunistic reasons for American Jewish support of

* civil rights,
* the labor movement, and
* other progressive causes,

in some sense the motivations were irrelevant because the ultimate results could have provided much more than narrow ethnic benefits.

Yet since the transplantation of the Zionist movement to the USA from Eastern Europe, there seems to be a gradual Jewish group mental subversion that is apparent in the Zionization

* of American Reform Judaism,
* of the Jewish labor movement,
* of Jewish philanthropy and
* of Jewish civil rights efforts

thanks to the efforts of communal leaders like Abba Hillel Silver, Abraham Cahan, and Felix Warburg.

In order to create a mechanism to control US discourse Israel advocates had to bring American Jews back to the nineteenth century racist mentality.

When your father talks about his support of the NAACP, I have the impression of a certain incompleteness of the Zionist indoctrination and of the existence in the past of a different direction that the American Jewish community might have taken.

Unfortunately, the indoctrination of younger pro-Israel Jews seems far more complete and bullet-proof. Like the Neocon leadership, they know they are right.

Joe M. said...

Jerry -

Your father is one enlightened dude. I enjoyed the post.

Chuck Kuhn said...

I was very friendly with a group of young blacks, so much so that they asked me to be a counselor of their group. I said, "But I am not like you." They said, "It don't matter, Bernie, we like you
We can ALL learn from these magic words "It doesn't matter, we like you. Thanks for sharing. Aimee turned me on to your blog. Tks