Photo Credit: Lori Lowenthal Marcus /
Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (L) at the Elkins Park, Pennsylvania event. Seated on the right is Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-PA).

If the goal of the Jewish Americans for Obama event was to rally the home crowd and pound away at well-worn talking points about why Jews should support Obama, an event held at a Philadelphia suburban synagogue on Monday night was just what the doctor ordered.

If the JAO’s goal was to inform and educate those who were not already fervent supporters of the president, the cantankerous headline speaker and a determined and equally partisan segment of the audience made sure that did not happen.


More than a thousand people filled the auditorium of Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, Monday night, to hear Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz tout President Obama’s record.

The warm-up speakers were an array of local, state and national Jewish politicians. They mostly stayed on message, and hit the high notes of the president’s accomplishments that appeal to Jews.

Much was heard from column A of the Jewish menu, the domestic front: primarily abortion rights and the more generic “civil rights and civil liberties,” and, from column B, support for Israel: continued foreign aid for the Jewish State, increased funding for the Iron Dome defense system, and the amorphous but emphatic “unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation” between the U.S. and Israel.

There were some partisan swipes, but an effort was made, especially by favorite son Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro, to emphasize their kosher bona fides, providing the hecksher for Obama support.

But when it came to the main act, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the evening became a little less of a Jewish kumbaya session and a little more of a boxing brawl. After spicing up her standard purely cultural Jewish connection between Barack Obama and American Jews with some Hebrew phrases (some of which, like gemilut chasadim—acts of charity—she stumbled over), the congresswoman at last re-entered her comfort zone.

“Our faith is so rooted in ideas of justice, and our values are the same as those at the core of the Democratic party,” she told the audience. “The harmony between these ideals makes the Democratic party the natural home of the American Jewish community.”

Once Wasserman Schultz was fully launched, it seemed impossible for her to hold back. After extolling the justice and fairness values of the Jewish religion, and lining it up precisely with the Democratic party, she went the next step, and opened the sluices.

“There is nothing, and I mean nothing, in the Republicans’ right wing social agenda that appeals to the American Jewish community,” she asserted.

“Not true,” a lone female voice was heard from the audience.

And from that moment on, there were repeated interruptions and isolated but persistent heckling, whenever the speaker veered into anti-Republican commentary. There were also open challenges to some assertions of the president’s stalwart support for Israel, especially that he has “unequivocally, publicly defended Israel on the world stage.”

There are some in the Jewish community who believe the United States has not done enough at the United Nations to support Israel from constant and unfair attacks.

And so the rest of the evening went, with a constant but muffled Greek chorus of “untrue” in response to some of the more extreme statements either praising Obama or bashing the Republicans.

An apparently unintentionally ironic Wasserman Schultz statement drew the biggest laugh of the evening. Following a ten minute talk liberally sprinkled with attacks on Republican values and on the Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney, she said, “I know we are all disturbed and troubled by those who make misleading statements for purely partisan gain.”

Walter and Marcia Rosen are Republicans who readily acknowledge they were initially unhappy with the idea of having the Wasserman Schultz event at their synagogue. Walter, a retired scientist and entrepreneur, is intensely aware of current events and is critical of President Obama for many reasons, particularly his lack of appreciation of the role played by the private sector in creating jobs.

Rosen was ultimately satisfied that the shul saw the event as an opportunity to provide information to congregants, and that the leadership is committed to having a similar event for the Republicans. But he was nevertheless disappointed by the event. “The idea may have been to have an educational event, but Wasserman Schultz and her team clearly considered this to be nothing more than a pep rally,” he said.

As happens so often with a large crowd, audience questions written out by participants on index cards were collected in advance. An announcement was made at the beginning of the evening that the most representative questions would be selected for the Question and Answer session.

The first question, directed to Wasserman Schultz, was “How do you feel about Romney having a Swiss bank account?” Romney has taken a pounding in the media for having money in such accounts, socked away beyond the reach of the Internal Revenue Service.

Wasserman Schultz pounced over to the microphone. “It is difficult for me to understand why an American businessman needs a Swiss bank account, other than if he’s trying to evade paying taxes,” she said.

Over the past week it was revealed that Wasserman Schultz herself (or, at least, her husband) had at least some funds in Swiss and similar bank accounts.

At the conclusion of the event, a woman approached Marcia Rosen, who, unlike much of the crowd, had not been enthusiastically clapping throughout the evening.

“What’s the matter, aren’t you a Jew?” The woman demanded of Rosen. “Do you want another Holocaust?” Rosen, a tall, thin woman, shrank back. Larry Kagel, from nearby Fort Washington, adorned with an Abortion Rights pin, and a Jewish Americans for Obama pin, interceded. “People can have disagreements,” Kagel said, “but you’re both Jews.”


Previous articlePollard supporters call Clinton’s remarks a ‘slap in the face’
Next articleWhen Governments Elect Another People
Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email:


  1. I agree with Debbie. The right-wing GOP wants to take this country backwords in regards to equality, equal-pay, women’s right to self-determination etc…………. Plus, many make statements which are offensive: “this is a Christian nation”…….I do not agree with Debbie 100%, but IMO she epitomizes “Tikkum Olam”

  2. The closest thing to a new Holocaust is abortion. Babies are happily, industrially and profitably murdered by the millions and the spare parts sent for exotic consumer products like Pepsicola. No, the participants in THAT are not jews. They are subhuman.

  3. I find this moderately encouraging, especially since it is a Reform temple. Honestly, there must be dozens of people who would be better spokesmen for the Dems than DWS. She is like nails on a chalkboard to me.

  4. There was a "Jewish Americans for Obama" poster in the photo–this brings to mind the Jews who were in favor of Hitler–how pathetic–Barack H. Obama hates Jews and Israel!

  5. The trouble really is that most Jews in reality hate Jews. THis is their excuse once again to vote for Obama, and the Democrats. We know that Obama hates Israel, and likewise has not moved the embassy to Jerusalem. Also, nothing was said about Pollard. Like or dislike what he did, he has been in prison far longer than any other spy doing similar espionage.

  6. "SWC Protests to Secretary Clinton over Israel's Blatant Omission from Prestigious Global Counterterrorism Forum".
    If you really want to know how President Obama's administration feels about Israel's security, you have to go no further than Israel's exclusion from the above mentioned Forum just last week.
    Jews, remove your heads from the sand.

  7. Cody Flecker: I think it's excessive to say that most Jews hate Jews. I can't imagine what you mean by that, unless you are referring to the countless American Jews who are part of the liberal/progressive movement to support Palestinian rights. They are deluded and ignorant, true. They passively allow the most virulent anti-Jewish propaganda to flood the web; they don't even question the disinformation about Israel put out by the mainstream media. But we need to do better outreach. We need to confront the smear campaign more directly. Sites like 'jewish press' don't cut it, because, here, we're preaching to the choir.

    As for Obama, I agree with you that he hates Jews and Israel – and I wish the 'Jewish community' would announce that it is not voting for him! I've read many Jewish commenters who've said, in effect, 'Better the evil you know than the evil you don't.' This is so wrong! Better the potential criminal than the proven one. No ethical person has any justification to vote for that vile, subhuman creature.

  8. After all the nonsense of this election has passed, and duly popularly elected women like Wasserman Schultz, a wonderful voice, will float again over a proud Jewish people. But in the meantime, the rightists and no-gooders, and slanderers will have a reactionary statement against her. People just can't seem to get enough to bitch about, especially the young, and its a shame. Once again, you have no idea what you are talking about, and won't, until once again, someone takes it away from us, as usual too late and way too little. All you who fight against the whole unity of Israel are ultimately contributing to its demise.

  9. ABORTION: the murder of innocents on the alter of convenience.
    God will demand satisfaction for such an egregious sin. I truly fear for my country!!! I believe that judgement will soon come!!

  10. As a Mormon, I don't understand the inference here. Is there something in the Jewish "culture" that says that if a Mormon is President? This is a sincere question. I'm not sure where this would come from.
    "At the conclusion of the event, a woman approached Marcia Rosen, who, unlike much of the crowd, had not been enthusiastically clapping throughout the evening.

    “What’s the matter, aren’t you a Jew?” The woman demanded of Rosen. “Do you want another Holocaust?” Rosen, a tall, thin woman, shrank back."

  11. As a Mormon, I don't understand the inference here. Is there something in the Jewish "culture" that says that if a Mormon is President? This is a sincere question. I'm not sure where this would come from.
    "At the conclusion of the event, a woman approached Marcia Rosen, who, unlike much of the crowd, had not been enthusiastically clapping throughout the evening.

    “What’s the matter, aren’t you a Jew?” The woman demanded of Rosen. “Do you want another Holocaust?” Rosen, a tall, thin woman, shrank back."

  12. I couldn't agree more. People think abortion is a right. I wish they would realize too, it's about racism. Margaret Sanger wanted to "weed out" the black population. Yes, our prez supports this too. I don't get it.

  13. Still no response from a brave and knowledgeable person in the Jewish community? Well, then I need to say something on behalf of most Mormons. Please bear with me for a moment. I am a life-long member of the Mormon faith and have a deep heritage that I respect and love. In my upbringing in So Calif. I was a part of a great community of many faiths and nationalities. Even if I didn't fully understand my Jewish friends' culture, we played and shared our lives happily. That has been the case throughout my adult life. In fact my husband does business with some very devout Middle Eastern Jews who are amazing people.
    IN the Mormon faith we love and study the Old Testament. We strive to understand the Law of Moses in it's originality as given by God. I have taught from the Old Testament and understand many of the basics of the Law of Moses which many Jews who I know today, don't actually follow even while claiming to be waiting for Jehovah to come (a question for another day). In the Mormon faith which is deep in the hearts of the great Romney Family, is the notion that the Jews are our friends and are great people. We have a deep respect for the Jewish lineage and heritage and for the land of Israel which we believe should be the Jews' inheritance from God.
    There is absolutely nothing in our heritage, culture, religion and nothing in the Mitt Romeny Camp that would even come close to the dark comment I quoted above. That is sheer evil in it's content especially if geared towards a very good man with NO secrets and a deep love and respect for the Jewish community and for Israel. Shame on anyone who says any different. It shows a very dark, devious side to what I have always believed to be a very intellectual, freedom loving group of people.

  14. Don't you dare say something like that to me, a Viet Nam veeteran, who has been around since Harry Truman. I work against no Jew anywhere, I will make Aliyah in spite of people and voices like yours, and I am an American/Jewish supporter the likes of which you cannot afford to do without. You hypocrite! The words I have for you I will not print, you are too small to sin against. I assume a brother, you know NOTHING! except the eyes in your own head. I have served this country HONORABLY and do not stop in my support of Ertz Yisrael, every day in every way. Show your face on your site or be silent.

Comments are closed.

Loading Facebook Comments ...