The 2024 presidential election season is already upon us, with Iowa Republican voters caucusing this Monday. That’s why we at Moment are reviving our Jewish Political Voices Project (JPVP, as we like to call it).
We launched JPVP during the 2020 election cycle, following 30 Jewish voters from 10 states through the primaries up to Election Day, in order to gain insight into the political views of the American Jewish Community. We checked back in with 10 of them, five Democrats and five Republicans, for the 2022 midterms. Since then, the politics of being Jewish in America have undergone a seismic shift with the October 7 Hamas massacre and Israel’s campaign in Gaza. In the United States, antisemitic acts and expressions have increased dramatically. Armed guards or police are commonplace in front of synagogues. Campuses are in turmoil over free speech and whether anti-Zionism equates to antisemitism. Attacks on Jews in public places are common enough to prompt some Jews to hide obvious symbols of Jewish identity (or, in other cases, wearing them as badges of honor). A Harvard-Harris poll in December, cited by The New York Times, shows 44 percent of Americans ages 24 to 34 believe that “Jews as a class are oppressors.” For those 18 up to 24, it is 67 percent.
Overall, uncertainties and perils may turn 2024 into an existential election for American Jews. The results could determine whether the United States continues to be a nation of relative comfort and freedom, or something more foreboding.
In 2020, Moment readers got to know Jewish voters of different ages and places on the political spectrum. All were from battleground states, where ten thousand or so voters could make a difference in whether Trump or Biden carried the state. For 2024, we recognize that “battleground” turns out to be a moving target. States such as Ohio, Iowa and Florida are more solidly Republican than before. At the same time, former Republican strongholds such as Georgia and Arizona seem to be gravitating to the Democrats.
Our roster of some 20 voters this go-round hail from all parts of the nation. They are liberal Democrats for whom the survival of democracy depends on Donald Trump being defeated. Some are conservatives who believe another Biden term would be economically perilous. Others are independents who are looking for an alternative in the primaries. JPVP participants are young, middle-aged and elderly. They are Reform, Conservative, Humanistic and ultra-Orthodox Hasidim.
The project will launch next month, but in the meantime, here’s a taste of what’s to come by introducing five of our JPVP participants. In future print issues and online, Moment will feature all the participants and engage with them on the most important questions of the day as the 2024 calendar unfolds. Look too for opportunities to hear JPVP folks express their views in virtual forums open to Moment readers.
More than anything, JPVP is an attempt to penetrate the fog and distortion that surrounds so much of political debate these days. By sharing personal and community perspectives and contributing to a positive civil discourse, participants will enrich American democracy and strengthen the foundations of compassion, curiosity and mutual courtesy.
|Eva R. Cohen, 36
OCCUPATION: Rabbinical student and leader of a Humanistic Jewish congregation
REGISTERED TO VOTE IN: Minnesota
POLITICAL LEANING: Progressive
PREFERRED CANDIDATE NOW: Joe Biden. He will be the Democratic nominee unless something very unexpected happens. I will vote against Trump or whoever receives the Republican nomination.
JEWISH AFFILIATION: Humanistic Judaism
|Aaron Weissman, 52
REGISTERED TO VOTE IN: Montana
POLITICAL LEANING: Moderate
PREFERRED CANDIDATE NOW: None of the Above. I mean, I guess right now it has to be Biden, but he is much too old to be a sane choice. However, his likely opponent is a traitor to the very idea of representative democracy.
JEWISH AFFILIATION: Reform
|Chesky Blau, 48
OCCUPATION: Rabbi, health-care industry contractor
REGISTERED TO VOTE IN: New York
POLITICAL LEANING: Moderate Democrat
PREFERRED CANDIDATE NOW: Undecided but leaning Republican. Oct 7 changed a lot. I see the world a little differently.
JEWISH AFFILIATION: Orthodox (Chasidic)
|Meirav Solomon, 20
OCCUPATION: College student
REGISTERED TO VOTE IN: North Carolina
POLITICAL LEANING: Democratic Socialist
PREFERRED CANDIDATE NOW: Joe Biden. Out of the two candidates who could actually win, Biden is the only candidate I can ethically vote for.
JEWISH AFFILIATION: Conservative
|Abby Schachter, 53
OCCUPATION: Academic program manager at local university
REGISTERED TO VOTE IN: Pennsylvania
POLITICAL LEANING: Libertarian Hawk
PREFERRED CANDIDATE NOW: Nikki Haley. She knows foreign policy, she’s younger than Trump and she was a governor. I don’t agree with (some) of her domestic policy prescriptions, but it’s a foreign policy election.
JEWISH AFFILIATION: Orthodox