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The Chosen Ones

Jewish voters traditionally form one of the most democratic groups of voters in the country. But for many Jews, something this season is making the idea of voting democrat a little hard to swallow (hint: it’s not the kugel they ate too much of at last night’s break fast). Thousands of Jewish votes in swing states throughout the country—not just in Florida—are suddenly up for grabs in the way they were not in past elections. This year it could come down to the undecided Jewish voters who will choose our next president. Why suddenly are they such an unpredictable bloc?

Well if you haven’t figured it out already, here are some hints: Starts with a ‘B’ and ends in an “A” (No, it’s not babka!) Okay, here’s another: He’s running for president and is very pro-Israel (No, it’s not John McCain!). Come on people, focus here. Alright, last clue: Barack Obama. Yep, you got it!

Two weeks ago the non-partisan group, American Jewish Committee (AJC), conducted a survey [www.ajc.org], in which 57 percent of those who participated said they would vote for Obama, 30 percent said McCain and 13 percent were undecided, a number that is higher than in previous elections. The Democrats would have to win all of those undecided voters in order for Obama to have the same percent of Jewish voters as Kerry did in 2004.

What is it about Barack Obama that are making some Jewish voters apprehensive? Probably his race, the rumors of him being Muslim and the myth that he used to work with Hamas—all this coupled with the fact (and evidence of the fact) that many Jewish communities don’t really know him that well.

One Jewish granddaughter is hoping to come to the rescue. In the video campaign, The Great Schlep [www.thegreatschlep.com], Sarah Silverman encourages other young Jews to kibbitz with their grandparents in Florida and convince them to vote for Obama. and she offers tips on the kind of thing to say to their bubbies. “Explain to them that we’re all the same inside,” Silverman says in the video. “They may seem totally different, but on paper, they’re the same. I mean think about it: tracksuits! I mean let’s start there. They both love track suits, they can’t get enough of them!”

The Republican Jewish Coalition has been firing back in response with push polls [www.politico.com] and a video campaign [www.rjchq.org] starring comedian Jackie Mason, who lashes out against Silverman. “You’re not a bigot and don’t let her convince you that you are. She’s a sick yenta for mentioning it! And don’t listen to her!” he says in the video.

Whether these messages reach the undecided 13 percent or not, those of us decided Jews can be sure to expect plenty of entertainment between now and November 4.

–Jamie Wong