Jewish Group Uses Creativity, Comedy to Fight Politics as Usual
In the October issue of Harper's, Bernard Avishai writes about the purported importance of the Jewish vote to the Democratic presidential nominee. The article is called "Obama's Jews." In the piece, Avishai notes that though Barack Obama is cited as leading among Jews 2-1, conventional punditry holds that such a margin is inadequate to counter opposition among those in that same "demographic." He asks "Are Jews finally growing aloof from the Democratic nominee ... because he is African-American? Will his fate hinge, as CNN's Jack Cafferty suggested, on 'a few old Jews in Century Village'?" No, he goes on to say, because, among other things, Jews are a hugely diverse group, the majority of whom identify themselves as liberal or progressive.
But if the tenor of the presidential race (of which the choice of Palin as GOP VP has been the ultimate symbol and nadir) has been any indication, intellectual analysis of the kind that fills the pages of Harper's is sort of beside the point. There remain significant concerns about Obama's ability to win Florida and, specifically, Jewish retirees, who have reportedly been the targets of push polling (whereby seniors are contacted for an ostensible survey and are asked ridiculously leading questions that create bogus links between Obama and, say for example, the PLO).
Countering such creative methods, requires, of course, creativity. A recent campaign from Droga5, New York, encourages Jewish Obama supporters to drop some facts on Bubby and Zaidy down in that hottest of election battlegrounds, Florida. The campaign, created on behalf of the Jewish Council for Education and Research, is called "The Great Schlep." In the campaign's much-viewed web film, comic Sarah Silverman declares, "If Obama doesn't become the next president of the United States, I'm gonna blame the Jews" and implores young Jews, or anyone, really, to travel to Florida to visit their older relatives and deliver accurate info on Obama.
"We know that there is an extremely pernicious disinformation campaign at work against Obama, and there is evidence it is working," says Droga5 CEO Andrew Essex of the motivation behind the effort. The video appeal is in keeping with Silverman's oeuvre (i.e., it's full of swears and is just the slightest bit un-PC on racial/cultural fronts). Visitors to thegreatschlep.com can watch the video, get talking points, donate and join other schleppers via Facebook. The video has been viewed more than 7 million times, and Essex says nearly 13,000 people have signed up to face humidity, afternoon dinners, medical malls and combinations of all of the above in the name of setting the record straight.
The schlep campaign won't end with the Silverman video. "We're in talks with an extremely interesting group of names from all over the map," says Essex. "We've been amazed by the people who have offered to lend their talents. The plan is to turn this thing into a genuine movement and use that momentum to actually impact the election."
Avishai speaks of the Obama campaign itself as a movement, one that can be considered in line with the Jewish majority. "Obama's campaign is an implicit opportunity for a new leadership to emerge, a contemporary equivalent of Rabbi Heschel locking arms with Dr. King. ... Obama's agenda, interracial symbolism, grassroots organization, and vast fundraising network have all the trappings of a movement. The new movement, like the old one, stands for integration -- not just in American society but on a global scale. Who if not American Jews have had that dream?"
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Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine and Creativity-Online.com.