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September 26, 1980 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1980-09-26

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2 Friday, September

Purely.Commentary

The 'Jewish Vote' Theory: Is It Fantasy for Power
Aspiration? Does It Reject the Basic Principle
of Striving for Justice in the American Fashion?

By Philip
Slomovitz .

The Sensation-Expanding 'Jewish Vote' Fable: The Older View That Places Principle Above Power

Numerous meetings held with Jewish groups bythe three major candidates for
President have given political speculators, columnists, commentators and vote solicitors
material to transform fantasy into an ideal.
Overwhelming numbers of Jews who in the past would have been infuriated to be
labeled "Jewish voters" now are walking with pride in the belief that they have become
the Chosen Voters. •
Therefore, it is not the media alone that are subjected to the spell of the so-called
"Jewish Vote." It is the Jew himself who now believes it.
Example: At a meeting of academicians, a highly respected attorney expressed joy
over the special attention given Jewish groups by the Carter-Reagan-Anderson Suppor-
ters and by the candidates themselves. He described it as "flattering" to Jewry.
Example: In several synagogues, the rabbis' sermons included comments that there
is a new day for the Jew in politics; that the Jew now can make demands for pledges
assuring protection for Israel and rejection of the threats of the Arabs who are bent upon
forcing another genocide upon Jewry.
This raises important questions. Are the assurances that Israel will not be aban-
doned, that the American-Israel friendship is to be uninterrupted, to be based on the
power of the vote? Where is the basic principle involving justice to the Jew, the obligation
to prevent the destruction of the Jewish state, the strengthening of Israel as the most
dependable U.S. ally, to be abandoned and sacrificed to selfish interests?
The fact remains that there is a basic principle involved here. The question should be
asked: is it possible for Jewish representatives to meet with political aspirants other than
on a vote trading basis? The answer is in the fact that all the candidates, except for the

bigots and the Communists in the minor parties, stand firm in their assurances for a safe
Israel, and also for an undivided Jerusalem. Therefore, the issue is as primary as the
economic and the social and is part of the involvement in foreign affairs. Therefore, Jews
can approach candidates, and candidates can approach Jews, on matters involving
foreign policies in the same way the candidates and the voters are obligated to discuss
and make demands for the strengthening of the social services, economic inprovement,
military defense for the nation and guaranteeing of the Separation of Church and State
principles. Included in these is the role of Israel as America's ally and her protection from
onslaught by the genocide-minded.
If these ideas are accepted, then once again the emphasis on "Jewish Vote" shout '
abandoned. In that case there must be a return to the views of Louis Marshall and t
who objected to this type of political maneuvering.
A Detroit News editorial (it dealt with Reagan's alleged ultra-friendly attitude
toward Israel_and read like an endorsement of the candidate) sized up the "Jewish Vote"
in the traditional rejection of splitting the Amercan electorate into ethnic-religious-
racial groups by stating:
"Such solicitousness is part of the democratic process, and therefore unexceptional.
But at times, frankly, the candidates' courting of Jewish voters strikes us as so obviously
contrived, so steeped in insincerity, and so laden with tenuous promises that we wonder if
it all isn't a little insulting."
This should be accepted as making sense. It is also in order to resort again to the
analyses in a Purely Commentary column, dated Nov. 3, 1972, on this challenging issue:

History of the 'Jewish Vote' . . . Trend Among Jews Toward the Social Aspects

We are put to the test. Serious decisions are to be
reached on the Day of Judgment, Tuesday. Is it to be four
more years, or are we to call ill the opposition to take over
the guardianship of our nation? Have we been properly
educated to express our preferences? Have the foreign
policies been fully evaluated, do we understand the status
of our judiciary, are we aware of the domestic needs that
call for an end to miseries suffered by many of the im-
poverished, the elder citizens who must have our protec-
tion, the children in schools who must be assured ever-
rising standards worthy of a great nation like ours?
These factors will enter into consideration as much as
the personality factors when many of us go to the polls on
Tuesday.
We have a duty to ourselves and to the nation not to be
swayed by deluding rhetoric and to deal with the serious
issues objectively, with a view to a future that is affected by
fluctuations evolving from the minds of men who seek high
office as well as the carefully evaluated principles that
inspire most careful approach to the issues at hand.
The voters have been molested with many suspicions,
accusations, claims that often bordered on distortions. That
Jewish citizens have been hoisted into a limelight that has
proved embarrassing for many. Suddenly a new breed of
pollsters began to test us. Not unlike previous elections but
with an emphasis that often proved repulsive, we became
guinea pigs. Every speculator felt free to count our votes
before we reach the polling booths. Monetary values be-
came factors.
Factually the Jewish voter, in his inseparability from
membership in the larger American electorate, has been
moved into association with various political elements on
the basis of his (or her, of course) interests in social welfare
and the needs of the masses of the American people. There
were times when Jews on New York's East Side were lean-
ing to Socialism. for these very reasons, and it was not an
accident that Meyer London should have been the first
Socialist to become an American Congressman in 1914
with a mandate from the heavily populated Jewish area of
New York's East Side.
Many JewS were active in the Republican Party in the
early years of this century, yet it was no surprise that in the
era of Louis D. Brandeis and Stephen S. Wise there was an
overwhelming Jewish backing for the Democratic Party.
In all instances, the action was by Jews as Americans
and the party line was often an alliance based on economics
and on the welfare needs of the country.
Foreign policies became the subject for discussion and
serious consideration in the current campaign. Has it been
settled that the issues affecting Israel and the Middle East
are non-partisan, that support for Israel is bi-partisan? If it
has not already been agreed upon, then we are surely a
rather naive populace. Support for Israel has become na-
tional American policy. It is in this country's interest to
assure the security of the only truly democratic country in
the Middle East. Therefore, the issue is no longer debata-
ble.
A matter that cannot be erased from discussion is the
one to which has been appended the Jewish Vote label. It
certainly gave many, many prognosticators and political
speculators something to juggle, and it remains something
to expose.
It's an old, very old, issue, and it dates back as far as
1864, when the then editor, Myer S. Issacs, of then appear-
ing English-Jewish weekly, the Jewish Messenger, elabo-
rated on the question in a letter to President Abraham
Lincoln. It was reported at the time in the American press
— there were then only about 55,000 Jews in this country,
no more than about one percent of the world Jewish popula-
tion — that a Jewish delegation had visited President Lin-

coln to pledge him the Jewish vote. That's when -Myer S.
Isaacs wrote to President Lincoln — on Oct. 26, 1864:
"Jewish Messenger" Office,
119 West Houston Street,
NeW York, October 26th, 1864

To the President
Private
Your Excellency:
As a firm and earnest Union man, I deem it my
duty to add a word to those that have doubtless
been communicated to you from other sources,
with reference to a recent "visitation" on the part
of persons claiming to represent the Israelites of
New York or the United States and pledging the
"Jewish Vote" to your support, and, I am in-
formed, succeeding in a deception that resulted to
their pecuniary profit.
Having peculiar facilities for obtaining infor-
mation as to the Israelites of the United States, I
feel authorized to caution you, sir, against any
such representations as those understood to have
been made.
There are a large number of faithful Unionists
among our prominent co-religionists — but there
are also supporters of the opposition, and indeed,
the Israelites are not, as a body, distinctively
(either) Union or Democratic (Secessionist) in
their politics. In the conduct of our journal, for
example, while from the first fitting upon our na-
tional flag, there has been a steady support of the
government in its efforts to maintain the integrity
of the Union and crush the unhallowed rebellion,
there has also been a studied persistence in the
expression of what is our implicit belief, that the
Jews, as a body, have no politics; and while we
(The Jewish Messenger) have earnestly coun-
seled and implored attachment to the Union at
whatever cost, we have refrained from interfering
with the private political views of individual
readers. This is predicated on our direct knowl-
edge of the character of the Jewish people of this
city and my position as secretary of their central
organization, the "Board of Delegates" — in
which capacity I have had the honor heretofore of
communicating with opinions of our co-
religionists.
Therefore, sir, I am pained and mortified to find
that you have been imposed upon by irresponsi-
ble men, animated, I am sure, by mercenary mo-
tives; and I wish to inform you, with all
promptitude, that such acts are discountenanced
and condemned most cordially by the community
of American Israelites. As an illustration that an
influential class of Jewish citizens are warm
adherents of the administration, you have the fact
that a Hebrew will cast for you the vote of a New
York city congressional district. A single Union
meeting this week presented these facts: the
chairman of the Executive Committee and Com-
mittee of Arrangements, the gentleman who pre-
sented the resolutions, two principal speakers
and many prominent persons upon the platform
were Jews — I refer to the German Union mass
meeting on Monday night.
It is because I sympathize heart and soul with
the action of (the) government in using every
means to restore the Union and overthrow the
machinations of those who seek its disruption,
that I the more regret this attempt to deceive you.

There is no "Jewish Vote" — if there were, it could
not be bought. As a body of intelligent men, we are
advocates of the cherished principles of liberty
and justice, and must inevitably support and ad-
vocate those who are the exponents of such a plat-
form — "liberty and Union, now and forever."
Pardon the liberty I take in thus trespassing on
your attention, but I pray that you will attribute it
to the sole motive I have, that of undeceiving you
and assuring you that there is no necessity for
"pledging" the Jewish vote which does not exist
— but at the same time that the majority of Israel-
ite citizens must concur in attachment for the
Union and a determination to leave no means un-
tried to maintain its honor and integrity. With the
expression of high esteem, I am, sir,
Yours Most Respectfully,
MYER S. ISAACS
It was 60 years later that the debate assumed greater
proportions when the late Louis Marshall, president of the
American Jewish Committee, was angered by the forma-
tion of the "Hebrew American League of New Jersey. On
Oct. 31, 1924, Marshall wrote to Felix Fuld, an eminent
American Jew:
"It is needless to say that
there is no such thing as a
Jewish vote. It would be a
misfortune if there were. As
citizens we give our adher-
ence to the several political
parties in accordance with
our political convictions. It
would be just as bad for the
Jews to vote as Jews as it
would be for any other reli-
gious denominations to vote
as Catholics, Methodists,
Presbyterians or Free-
Thinkers. Such action
would only stimulate
movements like that of the
LOUIS MARSHALL
Ku Klux Klan. This in itself
would be sufficient cause for condemning the men who are
responsible for this circular (announcing the formation of
the New Jersey Hebrew American League) and for the
degradation of the faith to which they pretend to belong."
This was one of numerous statements Marshall had
made on the question. On Nov. 1, 1916, he protested, in a
letter to the editor of Der Tog (The Day), against the appeal
for support of President Woodrow Wilson by Henry
Morgenthau and Herman Bernstein "because of what he
(Wilson) had done for the Jews." Marshall then wrote:
"What has he done for them that it was not his duty Ps
the President to do? What has he done that, unde
conditions, any other President would not be likely do.
He permitted vessels belonging to the government to be
used in transporting food and money to Palestine. That was
an act of humanity which was almost inevitable under the
extrordinary conditions which prevailed . . ."
Isn't this the reasoning in our time — in the emphasis
that is needed that support for Israel is not a one-party
obligation but is an American principle?
There were numerous other declarations on the sub-
ject, primarily those by Louis Marshall, and to this day
politicians come to us with Jewish appeals while the Jewish
voter, treasuring his mandate and his citizenship, is moved
by considerations of human needs, of American ideals, bas-
ing his touch of the lever as he enters the voting booth on
principles motivated by the need to raise the standards of
(Continued on Page 5)

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