MARBLEHEAD – Marcy Bernstein of Marblehead stood on the sidewalk adjacent to the driveway of Temple Emanu-El on election day holding signs for Democratic candidates.
Bernstein, a temple member, was there because the synagogue on Atlantic Avenue was being used by the town as a polling location.
“I’m surprised because I’m used to public places,” she said of where the town normally sets up its polls, “but why not? We are all one community.”
Beyond the temple’s nonpartisan, nonpolitical involvement in the big election, Jews had a role to play in the outcome. Communities on the North Shore with sizable Jewish populations swung in favor of Biden. After last week’s election, A J Street poll found that 77 percent of American Jews voted for Biden, while 21 percent went for Trump. The margin was smaller in a Republican Jewish Committee poll that reported that 60.6 percent of Jews backed Biden, 30.5 supported Trump, and 8.8 opted for neither. Last month, the American Jewish Committee released a poll predicting 75 percent of American Jewry would vote for Biden, slightly higher than the 71 percent that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Swampscott, the scene of weekly Thursday rallies for President Donald Trump, voted 72 percent for Biden and nearly 27 percent for Trump, according to WBUR’s website, citing data from the Associated Press. Marblehead had similar results. More than 56 percent of Peabody voters favored Biden while a little over 42 percent voted for Trump.
Rabbi Michael Ragozin of Shirat Hayam in Swampscott said that some of his congregants have wondered “what will happen after the election,” while others viewed it as another election.
“I would say there’s been a real division,” he said.
“I’m hopeful we’re going to have some healing in this country,” said Ragozin. “I hope to see the politics of division, demonization, are less the case.”
The rabbi gave his cell phone number to congregants if they needed to reach out to him during this time. Shirat Hayam also scheduled two post-election Zoom gatherings earlier this week, on Monday and Tuesday.
“The percentage of the Jewish vote appears almost as it was four years ago,” said Democratic strategist Michael Goldman of Marblehead. Goldman said the values of secular Jews overarched the views of the Democratic Party, a sense that America expands a universe of opportunities to all people.
Brandeis University Professor Leonard Saxe expected Jewish voters to play a key role in battleground states this election. “Jewish voters do matter,” said Saxe, the Klutznick Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies and Social Policy and the director of the Steinhardt Social Research Institute and Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies.
Brandeis researchers created a national profile of the Jewish electorate in 2020 by looking at hundreds of national surveys in all 435 congressional districts and the District of Columbia.
They found that 65 percent of Jewish adults in 2020 identified or leaned toward the Democratic party while 26 percent of Jewish adults identified or leaned toward the GOP.
“Once again, a significant majority of American Jews voted the Democratic ticket,” Rabbi David Meyer, the spiritual leader of Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead, said in a phone conversation. “But certainly we are not a completely unified voting bloc as once again a significant minority of American Jews voted Republican. I think it’s important, recognizing our personal preferences and decisions, to respect the fact that all members of the Jewish community need to be embraced and involved.”
Meyer discussed the historic election of Sen. Kamala Harris as vice president. She will be the first woman, first Black woman and first South Asian woman to hold that office. Her husband, Douglas Emhoff, is Jewish.
“I think that the election has reaffirmed our cherished American belief that reaching … high office is not beyond the dreams of any American,” the rabbi said.
In the battleground state of Pennsylvania, which is home to 275,000 Jewish adults, researchers found that 84 percent resided in eight congressional districts, with all but one district sitting in the Delaware Valley in the eastern part of the state, which includes Philadelphia. About two-thirds of Pennsylvania’s Jewish electorate identified as or leaned Democrat, while 26 percent identified as or leaned Republican.
For Tom Mountain, the vice chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Jewish Coalition and the vice chairman of the Massachusetts State Republican Committee, the overall national numbers among the Jewish vote were a source of frustration.
“[Only] one-third of American Jews voting for Donald Trump is very disconcerting,” Mountain said. “It demonstrates the fact that two-thirds of American Jews voted against the most pro-Israel president in history.”
Mountain credited Trump with doing what “no other president has done before, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, canceling the Iran deal,” and fostering peace deals between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, which Mountain called “unheard-of.”
Conservatives point to policies by the Trump administration that favor Israel as a reason to support him, but Saxe noted that both Republicans and Democrats have pledged their support to Israel.
“Joe Biden has been a strong supporter of Israel and he has visited Israel many times,” Saxe noted.
Saxe’s researchers did not generate a separate report on Massachusetts, but they found that the 4th District, which was recently won by Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss, who is a Democrat and Jewish, has approximately 68,000 Jewish adults, about 11.4 percent of the district’s population.
“Judaism mandates Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) recognizing that civic engagement and social justice are essential to coexistence,” said state Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead, in an email, when asked about support by Jewish voters for Democrats. “Additionally, for good reason, we are raised with lessons from the Holocaust shedding light on the dark capabilities of man to inflict pain and harm on each other. These two lessons are so central to our upbringing that I am not surprised to see so many of my Jewish friends and family, from across the political spectrum, deeply uncomfortable with the rhetoric and actions of the Trump Administration and working hard to get Biden elected.”
The story of the election is not quite over. President Trump has challenged the result, and Mountain supports the president’s position. To date, no states have reported widespread voter fraud, or voting irregularities.
“It’s being contested in courts as we speak – several courts, several states,” Mountain said. “We contest the outcome in the states. We contest there was fraud, voter irregularities … We reject the conclusion of the mainstream media that Joe Biden is the duly elected president.”
“The election is far from over,” Mountain said. “It’s not over until the Supreme Court says it’s over.”
For Mountain, the waiting began after a freezing, nearly 20-hour period of work on Election Day. Throughout the morning and afternoon, he campaigned for Republican candidates for Senate and Congress in Massachusetts, then provided commentary from the GOP side on Channel 7 until 2 a.m.
“At that point, Donald Trump was leading in key states,” Mountain said. “The next morning, I woke up and lo and behold, he was behind. It’s been that way ever since.”