Thursday, June 14, 2007

Promoting a Domestic Jewish Agenda

From The Washington Post: By Michelle Boorstein
New Coalition Seeks Candidates' Responses to Web Survey of American Jews' Concerns
More than 20 Jewish organizations -- including many new, Web-based groups -- have launched a campaign to get presidential candidates to pay more attention to the domestic concerns of American Jews, saying politicians wrongly view Jews as primarily concerned with Israel and other foreign issues.

The groups' premise is that the large, older, established Jewish advocacy groups -- that have more clout on Capitol Hill -- focus too much on foreign issues and don't speak accurately for the majority of American Jews, who care as much about health care and the environment as anti-Semitism in Europe or Israeli politics. ...

The top issues picked were health care, the environment, education and civil rights. The coalition will solicit responses to the poll from presidential candidates.

"There is a significant disconnect between the priorities of Jews in this poll and the issues many Jewish groups are working on," said Mik Moore, spokesman for Jewish Funds for Justice, the New York-based group organizing the effort. Coalition members include popular blogs, a record company, labor and environmental groups and others.

But some longtime Jewish advocates and historians say the campaign is as much about a new generation of activists trying to gain influence and inject their style of social justice work as it is about anything else. The new crop of groups is trying to spread influence through cultural efforts, such as JDub Records and the Jewschool blog, as well as through such traditional grass-roots groups as Jews United for Justice, which focuses on issues such as housing and labor in the D.C. area....

[Professor Pamela Nadell said some established Jewish groups work on foreign issues -- such as Iran-Israel relations and anti-Semitism in Europe -- because they think they have limited clout with politicians. Jews can work on a variety of domestic concerns through other non-Jewish organizations, she said.

"They know there are other ways of getting the word out on a liberal political agenda; they don't have to do that only through Jewish groups," she said.]

A May 16 editorial in the Jewish Week, one of the largest national Jewish newspapers, said that "too many candidates seem to miss the fact that we are fully engaged in a wide range of other issues" -- not just support for Israel. The editorial said the major organizations aren't to blame, but rather politicians, who think "our votes can be swayed solely by a few well-chosen talking points" about Israel.

Disclosure: I support a number of these groups and participated in the poll, the results of which are substantially consistent with my own views. (This is my blog.)

No comments: