Forward Thinking

A Trailblazing Cantor

By Michael Kaminer

Courtesy of Marc Goldman

In many ways, Mark Goldman’s a traditional cantor. He serves a 900-member Reform congregation, in Plantation, Florida. He’s performed around the world, including a historic group gig at the Vatican. And he loves to chant the “haunting, yet familiar” Kol Nidre.

But this year, the UK expat became a trailblazer. After nearly two decades as a member, Goldman was elected president of the American Conference of Cantors, making him the first openly gay chazzan to hold the post.

Descended from a long line of cantors, the yeshiva-educated Goldman came out to his parents at age 27 — three years after emigrating to the States. He took on his first cantorial position at Temple Kol Ami, which later merged with Temple Emanu-El of Fort Lauderdale. Nineteen years later, he’s become a beloved fixture on the South Florida Jewish scene.

The Forward caught up with Goldman from the home he shares with interior designer Aaron Taber, his partner of 17 years.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: reform, marc goldman, jewish, florida, cantor, LGBT

Can States Nullify Fed Law on Health? How 'bout Pot?

By J.J. Goldberg

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Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.)

Florida’s Tea Party-backed Gov. Rick Scott announced that he will refuse to implement the Affordable Healthcare Act, despite President Barack Obama’s reelection. Refusing to set up a state exchange doesn’t necessarily matter that much, since the law empowers the federal government to set up an exchange for states that fail to do so on their own. But more than half the expanded coverage in the law is supposed to come from a federally-subsidized expansion of Medicaid. So if Scott refuses to permit his state’s Medicaid to be expanded despite the federal subsidy (the feds cover 100% of the cost of expansion through 2016, dropping to 90% by 2020 – not a big burden on the states), then the impact of the law is crippled.

Conservative groups are urging other governors to refuse.

This raises an interesting question. State nullification of federal law was supposed to have been settled by the Civil War, but it’s suddenly become a big issue again. And not just on the right. The legalization of marijuana in a growing (get it?) number of states is setting up a serious confrontation with Washington, which still classifies weed as a Class I illegal narcotic, right alongside heroin, and is still raiding growers even in states where they’re acting legally.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Obamacare, Oregon, Nullification, Montana, Medical Marijuana, Medicaid, Harvard, Massachusetts, Affordable Healthcare Act, Attorney General Eric Holder, Florida, Governor Rick Scott

VA, FL Close But Leaning Dem; CO OKs Weed

By J.J. Goldberg

Chuck Todd on MSNBC is saying Virginia and Florida are too close to call but look likely to go for Obama, because the counties still outstanding are generally Democratic-leaning. The call in Ohio by the networks was for the same reason, as Michael Barone explained rather patiently to Karl Rove on air at Fox: the outstanding votes are mostly in overwhelmingly Democratic counties - and in Democratic precincts within those counties, as Barone explained.

An MSNBC reporter at Romney HQ reports that Romney had prepared an acceptance speech but no concession speech. Nobody from the campaign is around to answer questions. If the margin is close, they will go to provisional ballots, which won’t be counted until the end of the month.

Colorado and Washington both approved ballot measures legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Not medical marijuana - happy weed. That could set up a conflict with the incoming Obama administration. Up to now his Justice Department has opposed California’s medical marijuana law, which effectively nullifies federal drug laws. Tho without much conviction. Recreational use might change the equation and set up a real constitutional confrontation.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Colorado, FLorida, Justice Department, Marijuana, Nullification, Ohio, Virginia, Washington

Jon Stewart: 'Confederacy Goes for Romney'

By J.J. Goldberg

Jon Stewart calls “Most of the Confederacy went for Mitt Romney.”

And Florida continues to be “a huge clusterf*** - Florida, of course, being the place where Cubans go to live and Jews go to die.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Confederacy, Cubans, Florida, Jews, Jon Stewart, Mitt Romney

NBC Calls Murphy in CT. FL: Grayson Leads

By J.J. Goldberg

NBC calls Chris Murphy the winner over Linda McMahon for Conn. Senate.

As predicted, swing states Florida, Ohio, Virginia, N. Carolina and Pennsylvania are all too close to call. All the states called so far are predictably red or blue.

The only interesting news so far: Sen. Joe Manchin (D) is reelected in W. Va. Firebrand former Rep. Alan Grayson (D) surprisingly on track to win back his seat in Orlando, Fla. Other races: Bill Nelson (D) reelected in Fla., Bob Corker [R] reelected in Tenn. News of the Jews: Sen. Ben Cardin (D) relected in Md.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Virginia, Swing States, Pennsylvania, Ohio, N. Carolina, Florida, Bob Corker, Bill Nelson, Alan Grayson, Ben Cardin

Five (Jewish) Things To Watch on Election Night

By Nathan Guttman

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It’s Election Day at last. And as we sit down in front of the TV to watch the results (for those who actually have power), here are five Jewish points of reference on this long night of swing states, bellwether counties and exit poll results.

Ohio. With polls closing at 7:30 p.m., the entire nation will watch to see if President Barack Obama wins the state, thus virtually paving his way to another four years in the White House. But Jewish politicos should look beyond the presidential race to the brutal Senate showdown between incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown and Jewish Republican Josh Mandel. Brown is in the lead but it is a close race and if Mandel, a Tea Party loyalist, is able to pull it off, he’d be the star of Republican Jewish politics. A Mandel upset would be a bitter moment for the Jewish Democratic establishment, including in Mandel’s home state, which have fought hard to defeat him.

Florida. Polls close at 8:00 p.m. in the Sunshine State and this is the one time it is a good idea to actually look into those detailed maps on your TV hosts’ touch screens with a county-by-county breakdown. Regardless of how Florida goes, our eyes are on the three southernmost counties: Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: the jewish vote 2 2012, shelley berkley, ohio, nevada, mitt romney, josh mandel, jewish vote, howard berman, florida, election night, brad sherman, barack obama

Something for Everyone in Florida Poll

By Nathan Guttman

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Mitt Romney

The American Jewish Committee’s poll of Jewish voters in Florida which was released on Thursday, had something for everyone.

Democratic Jews hailed the findings as reaffirming Obama’s strong support among Jewish voters. The Republican Jewish Coalition, at the same time, issued a statement saying the AJC poll shows “continuing erosion” in support for Obama in the Jewish community.

So how can Democrats and Republicans both be pleased by the same poll numbers?

The answer is in the baseline.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: swing states, poll, mitt romney, jewish, florida, barack obama

Florida Jews Breaking for Obama: Poll

By Nathan Guttman

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Florida Jewish voters, viewed as crucial in determining the outcome of the November elections, will vote overwhelmingly for Barack Obama, according to a new survey of the state’s Jewish voters commissioned by the American Jewish Committee.

The poll conducted between September 7-9 and released Thursday, found that support for Obama among Jewish voters is down from an estimated 74%-to-78% in the 2008 elections to an expected 69% this year. Romney, according to the poll, which included 254 registered Jewish voters, will win 25% of the votes, up from an estimated 21% won by Republican candidate John McCain in 2008.

The survey has both good and bad news for Democrats. On the positive side, it suggests that Florida Jews fall in line with the national Jewish population which according to the latest Gallup tracking poll will give Obama 70% of its support with only 25% of Jewish Americans voting for Romney. Democratic strategists have long argued that Jewish support ranging from the mid 60’s to the low 70’s would be a satisfactory outcome in this elections cycle.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: mitt romney, jewish, florida, democratic, barack obama, poll

Florida Fixation Warps Emphasis on Israel

By Liam Hoare

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Mitt Romney

One of the inescapable narratives of the 2012 presidential election has been, and will continue to be, Mitt Romney’s attempts to woo a slice of Jewish voters away from the Democratic ticket.

Except, of course, neither Romney nor President Barack Obama are wooing the entirety of American Jewry. Because the presidential election is determined by the Electoral College, the candidates are effectively fighting an election in each of 50 states and Washington D.C. The Jewish vote is mostly concentrated in states like New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Maryland that are considered safe Democratic states, and therefore not worth fighting over.

The elephant in the room, of course, is Florida.

There are around 640,000 Jews in Florida, or about 3.4% of the state’s population. That’s a big bloc, especially since Florida has 29 electoral votes, which Romney virtually must win if he is to unseat Obama.

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Ryan Could Be Four-Letter Word for Jews

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

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Paul Ryan

Mitt Romney’s pick of Congressional budget hawk Paul Ryan as his running mate could leave the campaign with tough questions to answer with key Jewish constituencies this fall.

The selection of Ryan, the hotshot 42-year-old congressman from Wisconsin whose proposals for a trimmed-down federal budget have made him a household name, seems to have excited Republicans.

But one early attack in a congressional race in a heavily Jewish Florida district suggests that Democrats will use Ryan’s proposed changes to Medicare and Social Security to bolster Democratic support among Jewish voters.

Just an hour after Romney first appeared with Ryan on Saturday morning, the Florida Democratic congressional campaign of Lois Frankel sent a press release tying her presumptive Republican opponent to Ryan’s proposed entitlement cuts.

Florida’s 22nd Congressional District is in the heart of Jewish South Florida, potentially a key neighborhood in the presidential race. Florida is the largest of the swing states, and its 22nd CD is the district where Jewish votes could have the biggest effect on the outcome of the presidential election.

Even a modest pickup for Romney among South Florida Jews has the potential to swing the state, and possibly the presidential election.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: paul ryan, mitt romney, medicare, jewish, florida, barack obama, vice president

Newt Faces Tough Road Ahead

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

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Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich is in for a tough few weeks.

Following a decisive loss to Mitt Romney in Florida, Gingrich will move through a number of contests that appear to favor Romney before Super Tuesday, on March 6, analysts say.

Next up for the Republicans is Nevada, which will hold its caucuses on February 4. Romney won the Nevada caucuses easily in 2008 and has led in polling there this year.

Romney, who is Mormon, will get a boost from the state’s large Mormon population - 26% of 2008 GOP caucus-goers were Mormon in Nevada. Jews make up 2.8% of the Nevada population; 2% of Republican caucus-goers described themselves as Jewish in 2008.

Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam, who have given a combined $10 million to a Super PAC that supports Gingrich, are based in Nevada. Adelson has been a major supporter of the Las Vegas Jewish community, and a special evening caucus will be held for Jewish voters at a Jewish school that bears his name.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: super tuesday, newt gingrich, nevada, florida, mitt romney

The Super Schlep

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Sarah Silverman as Heeb cover girl

The Great Schlep is back.

That’s the campaign that, in 2008, enlisted comedian Sarah Silverman to guilt young Jews into traveling to Florida to convince their grandparents to vote for Barack Obama.

Now, the organization that ran the Great Schlep has reorganized for the 2012 campaign — this time as a super PAC.

“If Barack Obama doesn’t become the next president of the United States, I’m going to blame the Jews,” Silverman warned, jokingly, in The Great Schlep’s 2008 viral video hit.

There’s no word yet on what the group, called the Jewish Council for Education and Research, plans to do in the current cycle. But by declaring itself a super PAC in a January 11 filing with the Federal Elections Commission, the group makes itself eligible to receive unlimited funds from individual donors or corporations for use on political expenditures.

The JCER is one of a small handful of super PACs engaged in Jewish causes. The most prominent is the Emergency Committee for Israel PAC, which the Forward reported on in January. Another was created to support one congressional candidate in California; a third is mostly dormant.

JCER was moderately active as a traditional PAC in 2011, spending only $9000 that year, including $1500 in advertising in support of President Obama in the St. Louis Jewish Light, a Jewish newspaper.

Mik Moore, listed as treasurer on the group’s latest filing, declined to comment for the Forward.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Florida, Election 2012, Barack Obama, Super PAC

Now We've Got a Contest

By Gal Beckerman

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Sheldon Adelson

So tonight I stand corrected. After New Hampshire I was sure that Mitt had this all wrapped up and that’s what I wrote here. But tonight I know I was wrong.

I didn’t take into account the Sheldon Adelson factor.

Five million dollars from Newt Gingrich’s buddy has given the former speaker yet another life in this contest. This wasn’t the only reason, of course. It helped him that Romney fumbled badly in handling questions about his wealth — dismissing as “not very much” his speaking fees that alone put him in the 1% and acting sketchy when questioned about his tax returns. It made him seem like a bad candidate for arguing that he was the real defender of all Americans in an eventual match up with Obama. At the same time, Newt used those debates to his advantage and did what he does best — condescend to everyone and at the same time declare himself persecuted. It’s straight out of the Nixon playbook, with an added dash of Newt’s fierceness.

Now this race is going to get interesting. And, more importantly, the Jews are back in play!

With the early date of the Florida primary this year it’s the first chance that a large population of Jews will have their say as a community about the Republican contest — though, it should be said, as everywhere in the country, it is a minority of Jews who register Republican to begin with. So here are a few questions that occur to me tonight…

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: South Carolina, Sheldon Adelson, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Florida, Jewish Vote, Election 2012

Can Newt Take Surge to Jewish Vote in Florida?

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

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Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich’s big win in the South Carolina Republican primary raises the stakes even higher in Florida, the first race in which the Jewish vote will be a significant factor.

“This makes it a two-man race in Florida,” said Steven Abrams, the Gingrich campaign’s chairman for Florida’s Palm Beach County and an elected county commissioner. “There’s a lot more upside potential in Newt. We’re organized in every [Florida] county. The volunteers are very fervent.”

The latest Florida polls showed Romney leading Gingrich by between 15% and 24%. Romney holds big advantages in Florida, where his TV ads have been up for weeks and as many as a quarter of the voters have already cast ballots in early voting.

But Gingrich backers in Florida say the contest has completely changed after South Carolina.

Florida will mark the first primary state with a large number of Jewish voters. Although most of the state’s more than half a million Jews are Democrats, 2008 exit polls showed that 3% of Florida Republican primary voters were Jewish. Only a handful of South Carolina Republican primary voters are Jews.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: south carolina, rick santorum, newt gingrich, mitt romney, jewish vote, florida




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