CONJEWSION: Boca Raton Jews Undecided Days Before Lynn Debate

BOCA RATON, FL ( — //By Andrew Colton, Editor and Publisher// Four years ago, buttons reading “Barack Obama” in hebrew were ubiquitous on the lapels of Jews in Boca Raton.
Barack Obama Jewish Voters Boca Raton

Jewish voters in Boca Raton who supported Barack Obama in 2008 are largely undecided in 2012.

This year, those buttons are largely nowhere to be found.

In the days preceeding the October 22nd Presidential Debtate set for Lynn University in Boca, Jews throughout the area who largely supported Barack Obama four years ago remain very much on the fence.

“It's not that I love Romney,” said a member of one area congregation, “it's that I'm just not sure the President truly understands, or is interested, in helping small business. And that affects my family.” spoke informally with members of Temple Beth El, Temple B'Nai Israel, and Temple B'Nai Torah. While there are passionate Jewish supporters of each candidate, there is a very strong sense among many of indecision. On the issue of Israel, there's a belief that President Obama is only saying what he's being told to say, but doesn't understand the ramification of his comments.

Said one area Jew, “for the President to say there is no daylight between the US and Israel shows that either he is not telling the truth or really doesn't get it. Neither one is an attractive quality.”

But for many in Boca, the issues are far beyond Israel. It's what happens at home.

“My problem,” said a man who wished not be identified, “is that I run a small business and believe that President Obama has absolutely no idea how to help business grow. But supporting Mitt Romney could give a boost to the radical right seeking to outlaw abortion and other women's rights.”

It's a Catch-22 that is as old as the Bible says Rabbi David Steinhardt, the lead Rabbi at B'Nai Torah in Boca Raton.

“We don't live by one value,” said Rabbi Steinhardt. “And sometimes those values are in conflict with each other. A critical and nuanced conversation is important, and in this environment that rarely takes place.”

Steinhardt says that Congregants rarely — if ever — seek his guidance on who, or what, to vote for. But often seek his affirmation once a decision is made. When asked, he reminds Jews of an often referenced saying by ancient Jewish leader Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, who am 'I'”?

“It often comes down to how we see ourselves in a larger society,” explained Rabbi Steinhardt.

More succinctly, if an undecided Jewish voter is concerned about the continuation of a lackluster economy, or setting events into motion that could threaten abortion or other rights, a Jew — historically — should look at his or her belief system and consider who — or what — is believed to be most vulnerable.

“Taking care of those who are vulnerable is a cental function of rabbinic tradition.”

Like so much of Judaiism, Rabbi Steinhardt concedes the answer to the question raises more questions, but that family comes first.

“In the scale of Jewish ethics, protecting onself and one's family is primary.”

For a woman sitting in an area coffee shop after the second debate, that Rabbinical guidance doesn't help.

“Four years ago, there was no question. I proudly voted for Obama. This year, I will vote, but I don't know who it will be, and I will not be proud either way.”

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