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
"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
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
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