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Jewish Presidential Vote
Still Heavily Democratic
While Democratic President Barack Obama had
been harshly and loudly criticized by some for tak-
ing positions they perceived as being hostile to Israel,
Jewish voters still supported his re-election
in overwhelming numbers, continuing a
trend that harkens to the Franklin Delano
Roosevelt era. Exit polls from the Nov. 6
election indicated that about 70 percent of
the American Jewish community voted for
Republican challenger Mitt Romney
secured 30 percent of the Jewish vote,
approximately 8 percent more than
Obama's 2008 challenger John McCain and
comparable to President
Ronald Reagan's best
showing. Had the election been
closer in Ohio and Pennsylvania,
this Romney pick up among Jews
could have been enough to move
these states into his electoral vote
column. And Romney's gain among
Jewish voters in Florida helped to
keep that state in play into the days
following the election.
While Republicans hope to continue chipping
away at traditional Jewish support for Democratic
presidential candidates, they have a bigger challenge
on their hands. In 2008, only African Americans
voted in higher proportion for Obama than Jews. In
2012, exit polls showed that 72 percent of Latinos
and Asian Americans voted for Obama, pushing the
Jewish community into fourth place.
To Understand America,
Come To Oakland County
In the aftermath of President Obama's 2008 election,
pollster Stan Greenberg wrote an op-ed in the New
York Times claiming that to understand tomorrow's
national voting trends, one could see them at play in
Oakland County, Mich.
"Four years from now:' he said, "I trust we will see
candidates rush from their conventions to Oakland
County to see the new America ... a more tolerant
and culturally liberal population uncomfortable with
today's Republican party."
Once solidly Republican, Oakland County was
becoming more Democratic because of an influx
of first-generation Americans, primarily from
India and countries in Asia and the Middle East.
Additionally, African Americans were leaving
Detroit and Wayne County for Oakland County des-
tinations, such as Southfield, Farmington Hills, West
Bloomfield and Troy. To win America, he believed,
the parties had to understand the changing demo-
graphics of the electorate.
And when Stanley Greenberg talked about demo-
graphic trends and voting patterns, people listened. It
was Greenberg who first identified in 1985 what came
to be known as "Reagan Democrats:' a must-have
constituency for either party to win a national elec-
tion. Their epicenter was Macomb County, Mich.
While the Obama and Romney campaign
jets didn't touch down on the Oakland County
International Airport tarmac quite that fast, the
Obama campaign got the message and cobbled
60 November 15 • 2012
together a winning rainbow-style coalition. The
Republicans didn't, and are unlikely to win future
national elections without one.
In Oakland County, the birthplace and childhood
stomping grounds of Romney, Obama still won by
52,524 votes (53.4 percent to 45.4 per-
cent). Four of the six key countywide
positions are now held by Democrats,
something that would have been
unthinkable eight years ago. Republicans
with established names and signifi-
cant visibility, including former Senate
Majority Leader Mike Bishop and former
state Rep. Marty Knollenberg (whose
father continued a decades-long streak of
Republican representation for Oakland
County in Congress until he was defeated
by Democrat Gary Peters), lost in their
bids against Democratic incumbents. And when
long-serving Republican L. Brooks Patterson decides
to retire, indicators are that the next Oakland County
executive will be a Democrat, too.
... Which Leads Us To
Elected Jewish Women
Not to be overlooked in 2012 is the continuing
emergence of Jewish women as elected leaders of
Oakland County's Democratic
Party. Lisa Brown, who unseated
Republican clerk Bill Bullard,
joins the following incumbents:
Prosecutor Jessica Cooper,
county commissioners Marcia
Gershenson, Helaine Zack and
Shelley Goodman Taub, and state
representatives Vicki Barnett and
Ellen Lipton Cogen.
And Finally, Matty Maroun
Few individuals in Southeast Michigan appear to
be as reviled as Ambassador Bridge owner Matty
Maroun. By now, it is well known that despite
his $30 million-plus investment in attempting to
convince voters that they "the
people" should decide to protect
his business monopoly with an
amendment to the Michigan
Constitution, his effort failed mis-
erably. Despite "the people" decid-
ing, he now claims he will file a
slew of lawsuits to try and keep
a new, competing span between
Canada and Southeast Michigan
from being erected.
In the course of my work, I come across many phi-
lanthropists. Some are quite outgoing and enjoy the
accolades that accompany their good deeds. Others
are quiet, changing and improving lives with little or
no fanfare. All are known and respected for their non-
business community investments.
If Maroun had a record of genuine community
caring similar to folks like Alfred Taubman, Bill
Ford, Peter Karmanos, Jim Nicholson or Eugene
Applebaum, I imagine "the people" would have been
more receptive to deciding in his favor. It is too late
for Maroun to repair his image. It's not too late for
him to open his heart and substantial checkbook to
the needy among "the people" all around him.
Israel Innovation Helps
Counter Spinal Injuries
n Greek mythology, Argo was
the ship in which Jason sailed
to pursue the Golden Fleece.
In the State of Israel, Argo is a
startup that is working hard to
give people who are paraplegics,
but rich in determination, another
shot at walking.
Argo Medical Technologies,
based in Yokneam Illit, southeast
of Haifa, has given people who are
limited to wheelchairs a chance
to once again feel empowered,
thanks to a just-released device
called ReWalk. The 44-pound
Radi Kaiuf, paralyzed
exoskeleton helps people with
from the waist down,
spinal cord injuries, such as Israeli
walks with ReWalk.
soldiers, stand, sit and walk with
It's one more uplifting example of Israeli ingenuity.
Consider Radi Kaiuf, an Israeli solder shot in Lebanon in
1988 while serving in the Golani Brigade. Doctors said he
was lucky to be alive and would never walk again. Now he
can walk, thanks to four oblong black plastic cases he straps
to his legs and waist and connects to a thin black backpack
— while holding what look like ski poles. When he presses
a small button atop one of the poles, he leans forward and
hears the whir of ReWalk, his legs move.
Able-bodied people might call ReWalk a contraption. For
people unable to take a step, however, ReWalk is a godsend.
Kaiuf works full time at Argo testing the device. At the
beginning," he told JTA, "I didn't believe I could walk. All
you know is the wheelchair."
He called ReWalk "really incredible."
"It's fun to walk," he said.
Motors attached to the legs propel a ReWalk user at a slow
walking speed. A tilt sensor senses if the user wants to step
forward or move back, stand or sit — even climb stairs. Poles
furnish support. Training takes about 12 hours; walking and
balancing with only the upper body is no easy task.
Israeli computer scientist Amit Goffer, Argo's chief
technological officer, invented ReWalk with the help of a
$50,000 grant from the Israeli government. He lost use of
his arms in a 1997 car accident so can't use ReWalk. But
he was glad to help others boost their ability to get around
while burning fat and building muscle.
Argo maintains that ReWalk can improve work perfor-
mance because it's easier to stand up and talk to others on
the job front.
ReWalk is available in Europe, but not yet in the U.S. It costs
$65,000; current models have a five-year lifespan. Argo con-
tends that high-end electric wheelchairs aren't much cheaper.
It hopes to convince insurance companies to cover part of the
cost given the possible health and work benefits.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is a believer. It
has agreed to help buy ReWalks for injured vets. Argo is
lobbying Israel's Defense Ministry to do the same.
Argo estimates upwards of 250,000 people in America
and Europe could stand to benefit from ReWalk. There's
no way of knowing how accurate that number is; but it's
clear that walking even ever so slowly is a fervent desire of
people who have become paraplegic.
It's a good feeling to know a small company burrowed in
northern Israel is on the cutting edge of a big innovation
with real potential to improve mobility for people who once
could only dream of that.