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By Jacob Henry

(New York Jewish Week) — With victories in Tuesday’s Democratic primaries by Rep. Jerry Nadler and attorney Dan Goldman, the obituaries for New York City’s “Last Remaining Jewish Congressman” may have turned out to be premature.

Jewish representation in the New York delegation to the House of Representatives is still a fraction of what it was even two decades ago. National outlets noted the dearth of “Jewish seats,” and Nadler made identity politics part of his campaign, telling voters that New York without a Jewish member of Congress would be “unthinkable for a city that is home to more Jewish people than anywhere in the world outside Israel.”

But political observers told the New York Jewish Week that a Jewish candidate representing Jewish interests may no longer be important in a changing city — and especially to a diverse Jewish community that might not even agree on what those Jewish interests are.

From Hasidic neighborhoods to the historically liberal Upper West Side to the famously posh Upper East Side, there are “multiple Jewish presences” flowing throughout the city, said Ruth Messinger, the former Manhattan borough president and president of American Jewish World Service from 1998 to 2016.

“There is a sense of identity that goes with who we see as one of our own,” Messinger said. “That is a piece of our politics.”

Messinger threw her support behind Nadler but told the New York Jewish Week that regardless of Jewish representation, New York will still be a “dramatically Jewish city.”

But gone are the days when Jewish neighborhoods habitually cast their votes for Jewish candidates. In 2002, there were five Jewish members representing New York City in the House. Even now, Nadler is the only Jew in the delegation.

Mik Moore, a political strategist, is a member of the steering committee of The Jewish Vote, the electoral arm of the progressive activist group Jews for Racial & Economic Justice. He said that the Jewish community, “with or without Jewish elected officials, has excellent access to the halls of government where its interests are well known.”

“Other communities need representation in ways that are no longer as important to American Jews,” Moore said. “We should be helping those community leaders take the steps we took generations ago.”

Messinger suggests that public service doesn’t have the draw for Jews that it once had.

“I spend a lot of time urging people to go into politics,” Messinger said. “But for various reasons, it doesn’t look like the world’s most attractive profession to people.”

She added that the Asian community has the “best example” of a pipeline of representation in New York politics, which she attributed to the response to a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes.

“There’s a feeling in that community that they need to get more people into public life,” Messinger said. “That behavior of getting more of us into public life, this can bring a group from the margins into the mainstream.”

Moore hopes and expects Jews will “continue to be elected to public office in the city and beyond, with inclusive politics and increasingly reflecting the greater diversity of our own Jewish community.”

The Jewish Vote, for example, backs candidates whose progressive values often do not jibe with centrist and right-leaning Jews, especially on Israel. In one stark example, they backed Goldman’s rival, State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou, who at one point in the campaign purported to support a boycott of Israel. In southern Westchester County, a pro-Israel PAC, Pro-Israel America, tried to warn Jewish voters away from another eventually successful candidate backed by The Jewish Vote, Rep. Jamaal Bowman, saying he “couldn’t be trusted” on Israel.

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