Forward Thinking

Grace Meng Plays the Israel Card

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Grace Meng

Grace Meng has discovered her inner Israel hawk.

Meng is the New York City Councilwoman who won a Democratic congressional primary in Gary Ackerman’s district in Queens this summer.

In an op-ed in the Jewish Week yesterday, Meng suggested that President Obama “could have been — and still can be — a greater friend to Israel.”

The column channels Bob Turner, the Republican Congressman who last fall won a huge upset in a special election in a district that overlaps with Meng’s after Ed Koch declared that the race was a referendum on Obama’s Israel policy.

Especially since Turner’s victory, the hawkish pro-Israel line has been a constant theme in that corner of Queens. But it’s not a role that Meng played during the primaries.

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Being Super Pro-Israel Doesn't Win Elections

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Getty Images
Bob Turner: Relegated to the political dustbin

Results were mixed last night for New York City congressional hopefuls who ran on their pro-Israel credentials.

In Brooklyn, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries trounced Councilman Charles Barron in a Democratic congressional primary where Barron’s harsh criticism of Israel was a major issue.

But in Queens, Councilwoman Grace Meng received nearly twice as many votes as Assemblyman Rory Lancman, who made much of his right-wing pro-Israel platform.

The results don’t add much clarity to the question of how Republican Bob Turner really won his Queens special election last September. Both the Meng and Jeffries races took place in districts that include portions of the heavily Jewish district that Turner won nine months ago.

Some claimed the shocking victory for Turner was a referendum against Obama’s Israel policy, while others suggested his Democratic opponent’s vote in support of gay marriage was more significant. The answer could help political hopefuls win support in the area’s large Orthodox and Russian-speaking Jewish communities.

Lancman apparently thought that hawkish talk on Israel won it for Turner. In the Queens race, Lancman talked a lot about Israel — so much that his opponents criticized him for it during a televised debate. Lancman’s resounding defeat could signal that his unremitting focus on the Jewish State during the campaign was a bit too much for Queens voters.

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'The Era of the So-Called Jewish Vote Is Over'

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

A new survey of New York’s Jews out today suggests the advent of a much more politically conservative Jewish community that could shift the balance of local New York politics.

The study, conducted by the UJA Federation of New York, knocks down old conceptions of what it means to be a New York Jew. The Jewish community is increasingly Orthodox and poor, with significant numbers of Russian-speaking members and decreasing levels of educational attainment.

“The Russians are not Democrats, and the Hasidim are not necessarily Democrats,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a conservative Democratic political strategist. “When somebody figures out how to put the Russians and the ultra-Orthodox together they’re going to come up with an atomic bomb in Democratic politics in New York State.”

The UJA survey was the largest of its kind ever conducted. As we reported earlier this morning, 32% of Jews in the five boroughs of New York City plus three suburban counties identify as Orthodox, up from 27% a decade ago.

Orthodox Jews are generally more political conservative, and are in greater need of social services than non-Orthodox Jews. Their numbers appear to be concentrated in Brooklyn, where the study found that 22% of Brooklynites are Jewish, up from 18% just ten years ago.

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Poll Shows 'Surprisingly Close' Race for Weiner's Seat

By J.J. Goldberg

A new poll shows a “surprisingly close” race between the old-line Democrat and the relatively unknown Republican competing for Anthony Weiner’s congressional district in Queens and Brooklyn, Politico reports today.

The Siena Research Institute poll shows the Democrat, State Assemblyman David Weprin, leading Republican Bob Turner, a retired broadcast executive, by a relatively narrow 48 to 42 points in special election scheduled for September 13 in the traditionally Democratic district.

Politico reports:

Weprin has sought to cast Turner as a tea party-aligned candidate who is too conservative for the district. Turner, who has won endorsements from Long Island-based GOP Rep. Peter King and former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, has proclaimed himself to be the stronger supporter of Israel.

To be more precise, Koch has called on Jewish voters to support Turner, despite Weprin’s admittedly strong ties to Israel, in order to send a message to President Obama. As the Forward and JTA have reportedc, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman endorsed Weprin, who is keeping his distance from Obama as he campaigns.

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