WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden pointed to the 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists chanted “Jews will not replace us,” as an impetus to declare a presidential bid in 2020.
He has talked about taking his grandchildren to see Dachau, an infamous concentration camp where tens of thousands of Jews took their last breath.
In May, the Biden administration released a national strategy to counter anti-Semitism following a rise in reported anti-Semitic incidents last year.
American Jews have taken notice, according to several leaders who say they have seen a shift, particularly among groups that previously did not support Biden.
Following Hamas’ attacks on Israel on October 7, many American Jews are speaking out over Biden’s handling of the war, referring to his response as a show of «moral clarity.» Thousands of people are expected to descend on Washington on Tuesday to press for continued aid to Israel.
Biden «feels it in his kishkes,» said Halie Soifer, executive director of the Democratic Jewish Council of America, using a Yiddish word that can be translated as «gut.» «Feel the connection to our community.»
And he added: «He is a man of clear moral clarity.»
Sarah Hurwitz, White House speechwriter for the Obama administration, said in an email: «Having such a strong president, with such a strong moral core and such deep wisdom and experience, is truly encouraging right now.»
American Jews overwhelmingly align with Democrats. Before the 2020 elections, a Pew Research Centersurvey found that 71% of Jews surveyed consider themselves Democrats or leaning Democrats. But amid the war, Biden is also drawing praise from more religious Jews, an electorate that often identifies as Republican.
Ariella Gordon, 28, an Orthodox Jew who lives in Maryland, said it was «pleasantly shocking» to see Biden’s strength in his «moral clarity.»
«It’s becoming increasingly apparent as a Jew in America that our friends really are few and far between,» said Gordon, who identifies as politically conservative.
«I would consider Biden to be a friend of Israel and of Jews in America,» he said when asked if Biden is among those friends.
The shift in support for Biden among Orthodox Jews may not translate into additional votes in 2024. Only about 2.4% of American adults are Jewish, according to a Pew report. released in 2021and only a small fraction of American Jews tormineorthodox. On the other hand, Biden has faced growing criticism from pro-Palestinian factions of the Democratic Party, including some Arab American leaders who are threatening to withdraw support for his re-election bid in critical swing states such as Michigan and Minnesota. The lack of political impact of undecided Jewish voters has largely meant that it has received less attention since the war broke out.
“I can tell you, at least anecdotally, that many, many people in the community who certainly voted for Trump are very grateful and appreciate how President Biden has been supporting Israel in this battle against Hamas,” said Nathan Diament, a leader of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. Diament declined to share how he voted in 2020.
Naomi Grant, 26, a Modern Orthodox Jew who lives in Washington, DC, said: “Biden hasn’t really been as supportive of Israel as I would have hoped since he was elected, but at least he is now. That is why I appreciate that his administration is improving.”
Grant, who considers herself politically moderate, voted for Biden in 2020 but does not plan to support him in 2024 because of his policies toward Iran and her age: Biden will turn 81 this month. She said she would «definitely not vote for Trump either.»
But for some, Biden’s age is a testament to his long record on Israel. He was born a few years before the establishment of the State of Israel. In speeches over the yearsHe has frequently recalled that former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir told him of Israel’s secret weapon: «We have nowhere else to go.»
«This is actually a positive aspect of her age,» said Soifer, who was a political adviser to Samantha Power when she was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during the Obama administration. «No one has a longer track record on this issue than Joe Biden. He’s been working on this issue since he was elected to the Senate in 1972.»
Following the Hamas attacks, Biden condemned the «pure, unadulterated evil» that took place on October 7, emphasizing again and again that the United States stands with Israel. Just days after the attacks, she embarked on a whirlwind trip to Israel. He also spoke at a roundtable of Jewish community leaders.
Several members of the roundtable told NBC News that they have since met with leaders from the Department of Education, the Department of Justice and the FBI.
“I think they have been incredibly responsive and responsive,” said Amy Spitalnick, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, who attended meetings with administration officials. «I think it’s deeply personal for a lot of them on a number of levels.»
The gatherings come at a personal time for many American Jews, who are facing a rise in anti-Semitic incidents after October 7. Preliminary data from the Anti-Defamation League showed a 388% increase in harassment, vandalism and assault in the weeks after the attacks, compared to the same period. last year.
«I can’t remember a more terrifying time to be a Jew in America,» said Sheila Katz, executive director of the National Council of Jewish Women, who met with administration officials to discuss their response to the war and anti-Semitism after 9/7. October.
Jewish safety concerns amid rising anti-Semitism «became even more intense after the Tree of Life in Pittsburgh five years ago,» said Eric Lesser, a former Obama aide who is Jewish, referring to the 2018 attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 people dead. «And now it feels so much beyond that. And I think the community has really been comforted by the way President Biden has spoken about the conflict.»
However, the administration still faces harsh criticism from a faction of Jews that is mobilizing for a ceasefire.
Hundreds of American Jews and their allies demonstrated on the National Mall and at a Congressional office building last month to call on Biden to join their demand for a ceasefire.
«We cannot remain silent while the Israeli army continues to commit atrocities in our name,» reads a website Jewish voice for peacea self-described progressive Jewish anti-Zionist organization that claims to have more than 700,000 members and supporters.
Shoshana, 29, a Modern Orthodox Jew who lives in Seattle, said she was upset that the Biden administration was not calling for a ceasefire. She asked that her last name not be used because she feared adverse reactions from community members.
«I think it’s our duty as Jews, as people who have been incredibly oppressed for centuries, to stand up for people who are suffering and those who are suffering, that we shouldn’t turn around and do the same things that have been done to us for centuries,» said Shoshana, who identifies as a progressive Democrat.
In the weeks after the war began, the Biden administration intensified its outreach to Muslim and Arab Americans, as some White House advisers worried that Biden had not shown enough interest in those communities as their numbers grew. of Palestinian civilian deaths.
In a statement, White House spokesman Andrew Bates, while also emphasizing Biden’s support for Israel and its work against anti-Semitism, highlighted Biden’s work to «prioritize the needs of the Palestinian people – the vast majority of whom do not has nothing to do with Hamas – securing humanitarian aid, working to alleviate suffering in Gaza and urging Israel to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties while eradicating Hamas.»
«Fighting the poison of hate, including anti-Semitism, and defending Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself have always been core values for President Biden,» the top of his statement read. «And they always will be.»