Catalyst for dialogue

Catalyst for dialogue

Are you all surveyed out yet from the coverage of the Pew Survey of U.S. Jews? Well if not, maybe this will push you over the edge.

Last week, AJC came out with its 2013 Survey of American Jewish Opinion. According to the AJC, 1,419 “qualified panelists” were invited to complete a questionnaire and 1,034 actually did, forming the basis for the results.

And those results seem to be good news for President Obama, at least so far as Jewish voters are concerned:

• Eighty-two percent identify themselves as either centrist or liberal;

• Fifty-two percent are Democrats compared to 32 percent independent and 15 percent Republican;

• Sixty-seven percent either somewhat or strongly approve of the president’s handling of national security;

• Fifty-eight percent either somewhat or strongly approve of his handling of the economy; and

• Fifty-nine percent either somewhat or strongly approve of the president’s handling of U.S.-Israeli relations.

Even on specific hot-button issues such as Iran and Syria, Jews continue to favor the president. On his handling of Iran’s nuclear program, 62 percent of the respondents somewhat or strongly approve of the president’s handling. On Syria the approval rating is 59 percent.

Overall, these are not bad numbers for a president well into his second term.

To be sure, one survey is not the last word on the Jewish community’s view of this president and the methodology of any such poll is always open to scrutiny.

Further, it should be noted that significant minorities of respondents did find fault with president’s handling of international matters.

Nevertheless, his support in Jewish circles continues to be strong.

The question is, what should be done with these numbers.

First, let us say what shouldn’t be done with them. They shouldn’t be used to create further divides between Jewish Americans on both ends of the political spectrum, let alone Americans in general. There’s already too much division, which gets in the way of constructive dialogue at a time when American Jewry should be working closer than ever (remember the results of the Pew survey).

How then should these results be used? They should serve as the catalyst for dialogue, locally and nationally, among Jewish Americans of all political stripes. We’d love to see these numbers used to segue into public forums and discussions, to find common ground wherever possible, then use that common ground to craft new positions for the community to be presented to the White House and Congress.

In other words, survey findings like these should be used to make the community stronger, or at least more open to exchanges — not as some kind of talking point that one side is right and the other wrong.  We have too much of that already.