Jewish Exponent: Jewish Voter Outreach Adapts to 2020

By Sophie PanzerJewish Exponent

With the pandemic preventing in-person events and racial justice protests sweeping the country, Jewish political groups are adapting their strategies for an unprecedented campaign season.

Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said one of his organization’s strong points is investment in state- of-the-art Jewish voter files.

“One of the reasons we’ve invested so much money in [voter files] is that, after successive campaigns of doing this, we realized traditional voter files were horrible in terms of having accurate Jewish voters on file,” he said.

In past elections, RJC phone bankers were pleased if 20% to 25% of the people they contacted from Jewish voter files were actually Jewish. Now, thanks to a team of statisticians and demographers, RJC has compiled files that yield a 60% to 75% Jewish voter contact rate. Volunteers have made more than 400,000 calls to Jewish voters in swing states.

Meantime, Jews 4 Joe, a pro-Biden Democratic organization, has created a campus ambassador program to engage college-age voters.

“There are a lot of people who may vote for Joe Biden, but for one reason or another won’t be campaigning for him, phone banking for him or actively involving themselves in this election,” said Talia Rosenberg, co-director of college at Jews 4 Joe and a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania. “Jews 4 Joe is dedicated to mobilizing the Jewish people who maybe wouldn’t get involved in politics but who will be motivated to get involved in this election.”

Both Republicans and Democrats are using online tools to engage voters now.

RJC held a virtual national town hall on July 19 to talk about issues facing the Jewish community. Brooks moderated a panel that included former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and talk radio host Mark Levin.

He said the digital format allowed the RJC to reach a broader audience.

“We had over 9,000 people tuning in and watching,” he said. “If we had done a traditional panel, we’d have maybe 1,000.”

Jews 4 Joe also hosts virtual events, including a July 23 Conversation on Racial Justice with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio.

Israel is high on both parties’ issues lists.

Jill Zipin, founder and chair of Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania, cited Biden’s support of the two-state solution and the Iron Dome.

“If you want to support the party that supports Jews, you support Democrats and Joe Biden,” she said.

Phyllis Zemble, Eastern Pennsylvania director of Jews Choose Trump, said President Donald Trump has been “the best president for Israel.”

But Israel is not the only topic on the table for Jewish voters. Both want to talk about anti-Semitisim, but Brooks emphasized it coming from the left while Zipin pointed to it coming from the right.

Zemble said Jewish voters would respond to Trump’s track record on national security and the economy, as well as his “fighting back against China’s efforts to undermine American trade and business, and deregulation.”

Zipin Democrats’ commitment to racial justice, the environment and reproductive rights, among other issues.

If there’s one thing these groups agree on, it’s that the Jewish vote matters.

Brooks said RJC committed to $10 million in targeted outreach for Jews in Florida, Ohio, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

DJOP joined four state-level Jewish Democratic organizations in Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin to form the Jewish Battleground Coalition.

“Jews vote,” Zipin said.


This article appeared on the Jewish Exponent web site on July 29, 2020.