Jews as a group are also among the highest earners, and it is true that high-income voters went largely for Romney, but the differences are not so stark as one might imagine. Among those with family income over $100,000, Romney won nationally by 10 percentage points (54 to 44). However, in New York, Massachusetts, California and New Jersey Obama won this highest income group.
Moreover, to the best of my knowledge, most American Jews live in large cities or suburbs. According to the exit polls, big cities and mid-sized cities voted decisively for Obama (69 percent vs. 29 percent and 58 percent vs. 40 percent, respectively) while the suburbs went only marginally for Romney (50 to 48).
Can this explain why almost 70 percent of Jewish voters selected Obama? No. But based on “race, status, education, employment, etc.,” there is no compelling reason to have expected a majority of American Jews to choose Romney. Instead, based on the nexus of location, education, and income, one might have expected large numbers of Jews to choose Obama, and that they did.
One final point: Rabbi Pruzansky states that “Orthodox Jewish voting patterns are almost the mirror opposite of the non-Orthodox,” which I would have taken to mean that 70 percent of Orthodox Jews voted for Romney. But what is the source of this information? According to the Republican Jewish Coalition survey, Orthodox Jews actually chose Obama over Romney (48 percent vs. 44 percent). There are certainly genuine differences between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox in voting behavior, but the only thing gained by exaggerating these differences is to make us feel more distant from one another.
The Jewish Vote (IV)
I was disappointed by Rabbi Pruzansky’s article. There is insufficient space to address his misreading of Jewish history (e.g. Jews and Judaism actually fared better in less religious and secular states), his selective use of history (e.g. he fails to mention the Republican president who forced Israel to retreat from Sinai in 1956) and his misstatement of facts (e.g. unemployment rate actually dropped during Roosevelt’s first term).
Let me answer his question of why Jews support Democratic candidates year after year by explaining my own vote. As an Orthodox Jew I am uncomfortable with women choosing abortion. But no one forces observant Jewish women to violate halacha. The Republican Party and many of its most prominent and influential members want to ban all abortions, even if the mother’s health is at risk. This will endanger lives of pregnant women and force Orthodox obstetricians to choose between saving their patients’ lives or committing murder as legally defined by Republicans.
As a fervent supporter of Israel I realize the greatest asset the U.S. brings to Israel is its economic and military strength and its influence in the world. George W. Bush was pro-Israel but he did the Israelis no favors by allowing U.S. strength and influence to erode during his term. When I vote I consider who will be most sympathetic to Israel but also who will best strengthen the U.S. and thus best be able to help Israel in the long run.
Orthodox Jews have much to teach our secular brethren. But maybe they have something to teach us. Three times the Torah tells us not to cook a kid in its mother’s milk and the rabbis, to the glory of our faith, built fences upon fences to ensure that we meticulously observe this commandment. Yet thirty-two times the Torah tells us to remember we were strangers in the land of Egypt so that we will be compassionate to orphans, widows and strangers. The Democrats have traditionally been the party that looks out for these interests, passing (over Republican opposition) programs like Social Security and Medicare that have helped numerous widows and orphans and pulled countless seniors out of poverty and let them spend their senior years in dignity; programs like Medicaid and early childhood education to enable children to enter adulthood healthy and prepared for life.
We should be proud that secular Jews still remember the importance of a thirty-two-fold repetition and base their votes on their interest in helping the poor, the orphan, the widow and the immigrant.