Da' Jewish Vote

Responding to reports that Hillary Rodham Clinton's quest for a Senate seat from New York improved after it became known that her stepgrandfather was Jewish, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has acknowledged that his second cousin's third wife once rode in a cab driven by a Jewish driver.

"Rabbi Rudy!" trumpeted the New York Post the next day. The mayor's favorite tabloid featured a two-page spread on Hizzoner wearing various yarmulkes, speaking in shuls, and praying at the Western Wall during a visit to Israel. An editorial proclaimed that Giuliani, an Italian Catholic, "is just as Jewish in our book" as Mrs. Clinton, who is Methodist, and expected rival for the Senate seat "Anyone who disagrees with us," concluded the editorial, "we'll personally give a smack in the tuchus and wouldn't that make the mayor proud."

In Washington, political observers scoffed at the effort by New York politicians to ingratiate themselves with the city's large Jewish population. "It's blatant pandering and voters see right through it," said a spokesman for Vice President Al Gore, who also dropped the news that the presidential hopeful once roomed in college with a young man whose aunt briefly dated a Jewish dentist.

"I mention it only because it happens to be true and people are interested in this kind of information," said the spokesman, adding that while visiting in New York in early 1991, Gore had enjoyed a large piece of Halvah .

"That's got to give Al a huge bounce in the polls in New York," exclaimed Martin Peretz, publisher of the New Republic and longtime supporter of the Tennessee Democrat "These attempts by politicians to appeal to Jewish voters by eating Jewish food and using Yiddish words is ludicrous," Peretz said, noting that less than 3 percent of the U.S. population is Jewish. "But Al was over the house the other night for dinner, and insisted on a corned beef sandwich and a seltzer. And when I brought it to him, he said,"ah gezunt af dein keppel."

Former Sen. Bill Bradley, who is competing with Gore for the Democratic presidential nomination, said he would not stoop to target his campaign toward Jewish voters, despite the fact that they go to the polls in disproportionately high numbers.

"Look, I'm a Rhodes scholar," Bradley explained,"and I know that Jewish people appreciate and admire intellectual achievement, and they would kvell if they knew my SAT scores or grades at Princeton. And I also know that Jewish people are obsessed with knowing which famous people are Jewish, whether it's movie stars or famous athletes or politicians, but I'm running a different kind of campaign, and I'm just not going to get into that stuff. So I won't even comment on the fact that my campaign treasurer's economics professor at Columbia once used a Jewish accountant. And it's irrelevant that the accountant's wife belonged to Hadassah."

Campaigning in Houston, Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican presidential front-runner, cut short a speech in Spanish to a largely Hispanic audience to ask directions to the nearest synagogue.

When asked why, he said he did not want to look like he was engaging in the reprehensible practice of catering to Jewish voters, so he could not explain. But he did note a moment later that "my wife's manicurist's therapist's uncle died this morning in Brooklyn, and I thought it would be appropriate to stop in to a synagogue and recite the traditional kiddush."

Later, when asked if he meant the Kaddish prayer recited for the dead rather than the blessing over wine, Bush appeared annoyed. "Hey, I know about Jews and all their sensitivities. I read the Old Testament, I learned plenty in the Holy Land, I visited the Wailing Wall and saw where our Lord walked. And I kibbutzed around with folks on a kibbitz. So don't go there."

In New York, the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement decrying the "growing hysteria among our political leaders to try to please Jewish voters who are far too sophisticated to fall for such crass attempts." The ADL called it "reverse anti-Semitism," and said if necessary, American Jews will take to the streets to insist on a society that is fully democratic. "We won't tolerate anyone, including powerful politicians, being too nice to us," said ADL leader Abe Foxman.

Rabbi Avi Weiss of Riverdale announced immediate plans to chain himself to the next politician who emphasizes his or her Jewish ties. "It pains me to take action," said the activist rabbi as he donned his tallit, "but we simply won't take this standing up."

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton issued a statement chastising the press for creating such a fuss in the first place over the fact that her grandmother had been married to a Jew. She said any talk of her leaking this information to improve her standing in the Jewish community was "absurd."

She then left for Western Maryland with her husband where they planned to rename their presidential retreat "Camp Star of David."

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