Saturday, March 31, 2007

Jews and the Left, Part II

Given that Warren Kinsella supported John Tory over David Miller for Mayor, it's hard to call him "Left". That being said, I agree with most of his top ten reasons Jews shouldn't abandon the left (or better yet abandon the right). Much to his chagrin, conservative columnist George Jonas noted that generally are 85% of Canadian Jews vote for small-l liberal parties, that is the total for the Liberals, the NDP and I suppose the Greens as well.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Election Prediction

It may be a while until we're in another federal election, but the Election Prediction site is back up. It is an interesting place to discuss trends in various ridings throughout the country. Some of my posts will be up there in the next few days.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Jews, African Americans most strongly opposed to Iraq War

Despite claims of a Jewish shift to the right, and supposed support of Bush's Iraq invasion, it appears that the vast majority of American Jews remain "doves". In fact a recent Gallup poll shows a similar ethnic and religious divide as in Vietnam - with African Americans and Jews being the most antiwar, and white Protestants being the most "hawkish".

78% of African Americans and 77% of Jews are antiwar, compared to 53% of Catholics and 43% of non-black Protestants. Those with no religion are also very much opposed.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Jews and the Left

As a progressive Canadian Jew, I'm dismayed by the many claims that due to Harper's stance on Israel, the "Jewish vote" has shifted to the Conservatives. There was an article in the Toronto Star, written by Leslie Scrivener (Jewish Liberals: A Hezbollah Casualty, Aug. 20, 2006), that suggested during Israel's war with Lebanon this summer, Jews were so impressed with Harper's stance that they dropped everything else they believed in and embraced the Conservatives en masse. The article cited data from pollster Michael Marzolini which showed that Jewish support for the Liberals had eroded in recent years from its historic levels. But it didn't say which party benefitted from the decline in Liberal support from the Jewish community. I wrote to Marzolini about this (probably a little too much), which he very graciously replied to in detail (key points in bold):

"Support for Conservatives by the Jewish community is usually and historically fairly low, and in recent years we often see much vote shifting between the Liberals and NDP – especially in the GTA. National and provincial opinion research rarely yields a sample size that is robust enough to segment Jewish voters in large enough numbers for separate analysis, but in riding-specific surveys conducted over the past 20 years in such constituencies as Thornhill, Willowdale, Downsview, St. Pauls, etc. we have definitely seen a downward movement. This decline may have been exaggerated by the Liberal decline in the 2004 and 2006 elections, which impacts more dramatically on high-yield Liberal groups (such as Italian-Canadians, Chinese-Canadians, etc.) than it impacts upon the electorate in general.We have no data for the Jewish community outside of Southern Ontario and Montreal, but within the ridings in those two regions, we have seen a definite decline in support. The Liberal pluralities in those ridings, while still healthy, shows less strength than it has in the 1990s."

In the next e-mail, I asked for a clarification about this shift toward the NDP, against the conventional wisdom that progressive Jews abandoned the NDP because of Svend Robinson, etc.:

"The NDP vote definitely went up among Jewish voters. The Conservative vote was still limited in 2004 and 2006 by the loss of the Progressive factor – a view that the old Reform/Alliance intolerance was there with the new Harper Party. Liberal declines do not necessarily transfer to other parties – the turnout rate dropped very dramatically after 1988 – the free trade election – and kept declining throughout the 1990s, as the elections got more and more irrelevant to the average Canadian. And in the last two elections, a great number of Canadians sat on their hands and didn’t vote – they weren’t keen on the Liberals but did not yet trust the Conservatives. Was this the reason that the NDP got the boost from Jewish voters? We don’t know. Probably not, as it seems to have been a gradual rise during the 1990s. This is further confused by the decline in the percentage of Jewish voters in total – the numbers in real terms are actually higher – but the percentage among Canadians as a whole are lower."


"The NDP has been making steady progress among Jewish voters. Are these among all demographics of Jewish voters, or just blue-stockings? Again, I don’t yet have that info – but they’re either doing something right (which I find hard to believe, with the positions taken by Svend Robinson and now CUPE), or more likely, it is just a maturation of the Jewish community to show more independence among individuals as far as political choice."

Marzolini couldn't release the exact numbers, but certainly the picture is very different from what we've been hearing lately. One could argue that now Jews have seen how supportive of Harper was as Prime Minister they'll vote Conservative at a higher rate. Maybe, though it's hard seeing it go from very low to a somewhat higher level. And in the recent Congressional elections despite Republican support for Israel and claims that the Democrats were the "anti-Israel" party of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, they received just 12% of the Jewish vote. My guess is Canada won't be any different.

Furthermore, this whole debate suggests that Jewish voters solely cast their vote on Israel policy. Certainly the vast vast majority of Jews, including myself, support Israel. But they cast their ballots based on a variety of issues, just like other Canadians. And historically Canadian Jews have been generally very progressive in their politics, with above-average support for the Liberals and NDP and below-average support for the Tories.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Stephen Lewis a hit at Holy Blossom

Holy Blossom is Canada's most prominent Reform Jewish congregation, located in the heart of St. Paul's riding in the very affluent Forest Hill/Cedarvale area. Although a very wealthy congregation that is home to movers and shakers like Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman, it is very much known for its commitment to social justice. For instance, Holy Blossom is the only synagogue in North America to shelter homeless people overnight. Holy Blossom also runs an outreach program for those in the Jewish community living with AIDS.

Last night, democratic socialist and humanitarian Stephen Lewis, who recently completed his term as UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa, in spite of a snowstorm drew a very large turnout for a talk sponsored by the Social Action Committee. In his introductory remarks, CBC journalist and Holy Blossom member Evan Solomon spoke of Lewis' tireless work on behalf of the humanitarian crisis of AIDS in Africa as being in the tradition of Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Lewis spoke for the need for the privileged people of the West not to be indifferent to the suffering in Africa and spoke of such tragic consequences of parents burying their children and the heroic role of grandmothers raising their grandchildren. A proud feminist, Lewis called the struggle for gender equality the biggest struggle of today and called for the UN to make gender equality a serious part of its mandate. Despite the drastic situation, Lewis spoke of some hopeful developments - including the Clinton Foundation's ability to negotiate lower drug prices as well as the current debate about creating a women's agency at the UN on par with organizations such as UNICEF and UNDP.

The 15 minute period alloted for questions was far too little, and it had to be "bumped" to make room for the presentation by students from the religious school. Lewis was around after for book signings in which the lineup was in the hundreds, and I unfortunately couldn't stick around. It was very much evident that Stephen Lewis is deeply loved by members of the congregation. The commitment to tikun olam is alive and well in Toronto.