Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

In Queens, the Pro-Israel Vote

In Forest Hills, a heavily Jewish neighborhood, one Romney voter said ‘The polls aren’t telling the truth’

Print Email
A voter leaves the Queens library on Nov. 6, 2012. (Photo by the author.)

Just 14 months ago, a special election in New York’s 9th Congressional District gave a crucial reading of the Obama Administration’s political health. In a solidly blue district that hadn’t elected Republican representation since 1920—one that the president had carried by 11 points less than three years earlier—voters chose Republican Bob Turner, a retired businessman and political novice, over Democrat David Weprin, an Orthodox Jewish assemblyman in a heavily Jewish district.

Weprin famously lost because Turner—helped by an endorsement from former New York City Mayor Ed Koch—successfully seized on the chance to run against Weprin by running against Obama. This Turner ad summed up the Republican’s campaign: “Obama thinks he can fix the economy on a bus, he already threw Israel under it. It’s time to put on the brakes and send a clear message to Washington. Vote Bob Turner for Congress this Tuesday September 13.”

Today, as Americans go to the polls, one of the questions is whether or not Obama has sufficiently repaired his standing among hawkish Democrats for whom Israel is a litmus test issue—the kind that went for Turner in 2011. Perhaps no one represents that constituency better than Ed Koch, who last week endorsed President Obama, opining at length about the president’s improved record on Israel’s security. In a conversation yesterday afternoon, Hizzoner took credit for “persuading” Obama to adopt what Koch saw as a friendlier posture toward the Jewish state. “In the third debate that was the first question [moderator] Bob Schieffer asked,” Koch told me. “Schieffer asked ‘Do you consider an attack on Israel an attack on the United States?’ And the president and Romney both in their language conveyed that they would. … And so, I think I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish.”

While Koch has notoriously shunted domestic issues in favor of candidates with muscular foreign-policy approaches—Koch backed Bush in 2004, and made President Jimmy Carter’s political life a living hell on the way to his historic drubbing by Ronald Reagan—he said his support for Obama’s reelection is a bigger-picture endorsement.

“Israel is a major issue, but the other issues are major too, which are Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, abortion. From my point of view you have to be good on domestic issues as well as on foreign issues to get my support. The president has my support because he’s good on both.”

But did pro-Israel voters in heavily Jewish areas like Forest Hills, Queens, get the message? At a polling station at P.S. 101, where some voters stood for over an hour to cast their ballots, fortifying themselves on pumpkin bread and zucchini muffins being hawked by the students, the results were unclear.

“I voted for Ronald Reagan in this gymnasium in 1980. That was a party!” said Joey Gmerek, who manages rock bands and was born and raised in Forest Hills. “But I’m not switching horses midstream.”

“I supported Romney,” said Carol Lipkin, a 64-year-old retiree. “And people are afraid to say they supported Romney because of race. But Jewish voters are aware of racial issues. We’re voting against the debt. Israel isn’t the issue.”

“The polls aren’t telling the truth,” added her companion, who did not want to be named. “Nobody knows what’s going to happened. We’ve got to fix the economy and help out friends. That’s why I voted Romney.”

At a coffee shop on Austin Road nearby, Paul Berger, a technology consultant, disagreed.

“The Turner election was about midterm backlash. This election is about social justice. A line needs to be drawn about tax rates so that people pay what they owe. That is the issue.”

Outside of Sergey’s Barber Shop, just off of Geraldine Ferraro Way, Nathan Halpin, a pensioner in his seventies, summed it up: “Who I will vote for is my business. But Israel is my business too.”


Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

the polls are based on 2008 election.and they’re asking a higher percent of Democrats . I believe by 8% in some polls. I think you’ll see a overwhelming Romney victory

Big loss for Bubba. Bye bye Bibi…it’s been fun enduring your backseat driving but now is not the time anymore for maniacs.

    What an odd reply. Elections in Israel aren’t scheduled until 2013 and Likud has a commanding lead.

    Unless you’re going to tell us that you expect foreign sources to meddle in Israel’s domestic politics.

      Likud doesn’t even have a majority or even a pluraity, in the current Knesset. They govern by coalition with Labor. Netanyahu has recently stated he may call for early elections.

Laura F. says:

Adam Chandler, first of all, please note that it’s Austin Street and not Austin Place. I wish I could have spoken to you four years ago when I lived and voted in Forest Hills.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

In Queens, the Pro-Israel Vote

In Forest Hills, a heavily Jewish neighborhood, one Romney voter said ‘The polls aren’t telling the truth’

More on Tablet:

A Tale of Three Twitter Feeds: Hamas Tweets in Arabic, English, and Hebrew

By Aaron Magid — Analysis of the social-media messaging of Hamas’ military wing reveals distinct voices for the West, the Arab Middle East, and Israel