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 coalition’s effort focuses on a survey, conducted online ( http://www.jspot.org) during the past few weeks, in which people were asked to pick their top five domestic issues. Nearly 9,000 people, who were required to include their names, responded, according to results announced yesterday. 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.
“It’s true that established groups haven’t spoken with one voice on domestic issues, but they have advocated for those things,” said Pamela S. Nadell, professor of history and director of Jewish studies at American University. “What’s happening is these new groups — which are very exciting — are trying to band together to exercise larger political clout.”