July 23, 2024
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July 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

How a Small Group of Jews Got the Vote: Latimer vs. Bowman

Daniel Mitzner

It’s not exactly a secret that Jamal Bowman was no ally of the Jewish community during his time in Congress. Between his comments about Israel or his lack of engagement with his Jewish constituents, many Jews in New York’s 16th district were less than pleased with their representative. It is especially concerning to note that his district was home to one of the most densely Jewish populations in America.

With the spike in nationwide antisemitism—from hateful graffiti sprayed on Jewish homes and businesses and chants of “intifada,” to the mob that attacked a Los Angeles synagogue last week—it may feel like the situation is hopeless. However, American Jews should note that the most powerful tool that we have is the vote.

Westchester Unites, a project of the Orthodox Union’s Teach Coalition, is an organization that believes “we must take a stand and ensure the election of a candidate who values the safety and well-being of the Jewish community.” Westchester Unites was able to rally and encourage the community to vote in the June 25 primary. In a webinar led by Maury Litwack, founder and CEO of Teach Coalition, he explained that the voting turnout for the Jewish community in this election was above 60%, which is considered unprecedented.

Maury Litwack

Teach Coalition’s COO and director of government affairs, Daniel Mitzner, outlined the group’s strategies that have contributed to their successful outcome. They began preparations for the June 25 election back in January. In New York, only individuals who are registered Democrats or Independents are allowed to vote in the primaries, which is why, explained Mitzner, “we engaged in a really, really intense sprint from January to about February 14 to re-enroll as many Republicans and Independents,who are Jewish voters, in the district to become Democrats,” said Mitzner. That was what Mitzner described as “phase one.” Through these efforts, 2,000 people switched from Republicans to Independents. Remarkable numbers.

Phase two began after February 14, “which is when we moved into the early mail in ballot early in person vote,” said Mitzner. “Although [we] were dissuaded from doing so, we wanted to make sure the room locked in as many Jewish votes as early as possible so that we can efficiently go back to voting.” The goal was to make themselves “an efficient machine.” And it worked: 6,000 people sent their ballots early.

However, phase three is really where “the magic happened at the end of the day.” This was due to the tremendous efforts of volunteers. Sarah Kaminetsky Jonas was one of the individuals who dedicated countless hours to this cause. She described the grassroots nature of the operation.

They first established captains and then task forces—these were “community members who saw an opportunity and had the dedication, motivation and the time to get involved.” They set up registration drives, called people and talked to others in shul, among many other get-out-the-vote strategies. The volunteers made over 50,000 calls and knocked on 12,500 doors. For a demographic that is only 9% of the overall district, 60% of Jews voted.

However, what made the campaign especially unique is the communal aspect. Westchester Unites built relationships with 35 Jewish institutions in the district. It was about volunteers speaking to their friends and people they knew, and encouraging them to take action—to vote.

The total Jewish voter turnout was 15,508.

Eight major synagogues had over 70% turnout. Five were above 80%.

Young Israel of New Rochelle had nearly 90% turnout.

The Jewish community represented 23% of the votes cast.

Jewish individuals voted at a rate of 2.25 times more than non-Jewish voters.

As Kaminetsky Jonas said, “We made history, and it’s incredible to have been a part of it.”

Sara Cohen is a Jewish Link summer intern and an English major at Yeshiva University. You can reach her at [email protected].

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