Many leaders took to the podium to discuss their fears of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and praised the now Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, all in relation to Jewish issues.
More than 100 people greeted the Jewish Roundtable Meeting at the Pennsylvania Convention Center July 26 with a loud “Shalom!”
However, the two-hour meeting was a little less discussion-based. Many leaders took to the podium to discuss their fears of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and praised the now Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, all in relation to Jewish issues.
Colorado Rep. Jared Polis said he’s proud to support Clinton and plans on fighting hard to ensure and grow similar ideas into the next generation.
He said while about 35 to 40 percent of Jewish votes go to Republicans, Clinton deserves 90 percent.
“It’s important for us to be their conscience,” he said of people not supporting Clinton. “This election can very well come down to a few votes in a few key states.”
New York City Councilman David Greenfield from Brooklyn echoed similar ideas: “There’s nothing wrong with being a Jewish voter and voting on Jewish issues.
“You may not agree with every single issue Secretary Clinton has, but you agree with most of the issues.”
Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach, who represents Lower Merion, also spoke, throwing the question out to the audience: Can Israel rely on the U.S. if Trump is our president?
“Donald Trump is not a tikkun olam kind of guy,” he said, getting laughs from the audience. “He’s a destroy olam kind of guy.”
Overall, the speakers hoped to provide “ammunition,” as Leach put it, for Democrats to explain to their pro-Trump friends why Clinton is the better candidate.
Rabbi Andy Green from Congregation Beth El in Voorhees, N.J., was invited to listen to the roundtable.
“Whenever we engage in policy, whenever we engage in public life and politics, it’s rooted in Torah and learning,” Green said. “One of the things that’s beautiful about being here today is that we began studying … what it means to be a community, what it means to come together and to articulate the values that are important to us, no matter who we vote for.
“It’s not just for issues such as Israel that are important, particularly, to our community, but for a whole plethora of issues,” Green continued. “How it is that we’re going to help those that are most marginalized in our society; how we’re going to help those that are needy in different ways. The best way for each of us to do that is to express our voice, our values — to share that with one another, and to go to the polling places so that our voices are heard by those who have the influence to make a difference.”
Jews of all backgrounds — Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, locals, out-of-towners and even a cowboy — attended to hear what these representatives had to say.
Said cowboy, 37-year-old Matthew Finkelstein from Texas, came to the Democratic National Convention with his girlfriend, who was a delegate.
Mid-roundtable, Finkelstein addressed the crowd, asking it to talk about these issues in a discussion format rather than listen to speeches.
“I would like for us to talk about some of the harder things,” he added. “We need to talk about Gaza, about American policy about that. Right now, all we’re talking about is ‘let’s get Clinton elected.’”
Although he said he’ll vote for Clinton, as the speeches emphasized, he said he was a big Bernie Sanders supporter, illuminated by the blue kippah with the Sanders logo he wore underneath his cowboy hat.
“Regarding a Trump presidency, I think any Jew supporting Trump has got to be flirting a little bit with the idea of suicide. It is a bold statement, but I believe that it is somewhat like playing with fire — for the [Jewish] community, for the world,” said Finkelstein, who is the son of a rabbi. “If you think it’s just Mexicans, if you think it’s just Muslims, you’ve got another thing coming. You haven’t learned anything from history.”
Finkelstein had a clear passion for expressing his opinions on policies — so much so that he got kicked off the convention floor Monday night.
He wore a red clown nose, which garnered him plenty of interviews, saying, “This whole election has been a clown show.”
When Michelle Obama began speaking about Clinton’s war policies, he said, that’s when he got a little too loud showing his disregard on the floor.
“Regarding Hillary Clinton, I support her. I’m going to vote for her, but I really feel that she has a bad habit when it comes to war,” he said, “that we’re going to have to break if we’re serious about leadership to the world.”