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Allison Kaplan Sommer | March 10, 2020

On the same weekend that Sanders was campaigning in Dearborn, members of his own tribe – Michigan’s Jewish community – were busy organizing an event for his opponent, Joe Biden. Israeli-American businessman and Democratic activist Hannan Lis hosted Biden surrogate John Kerry for a parlor meeting, inviting 100 local Jewish leaders.

Noah Arbit, the 24-year-old founder and chairman of the Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus, who attended the Kerry event, said that, like many American Jews, those in Michigan “don’t just have a problem with what Bernie says. It’s the people Bernie surrounds himself with. That’s what is alienating.”

Ultimately, though, it seems it’s not the Middle East that fuels the Jewish community’s preference for Biden. It’s the issue of electability.

“What Jewish Michiganders are looking at is who can defeat Donald Trump. Jewish Michiganders are not looking for a revolution. The only revolution we want is to get rid of Donald Trump,” said Arbit.

Although Michigan is a particularly centrist Jewish community, Arbit disagreed with Lis’ dismissal of progressive elements in the Jewish community. There is, he said, a small very progressive contingent that supports Sanders, most of them young people.

“When I hear statements like ‘Bernie Sanders is an anti-Semite’ or ‘He’s a self-hating Jew,’ I find them offensive. I grate against this notion that exists in our Jewish community that if you hold progressive politics regarding Israel policies, you are labeled a ‘self-hating Jew.’ That’s heinous; calling his Jewishness into question is beyond the pale,” Arbit said.

Whatever the result, the two members of the Jewish community said local Democrats feel their state’s choice of candidate may determine the future of the presidential race. “With Michigan coming after Super Tuesday,” Arbit said, “we often complain about not having enough influence. This time, we will definitely have an impact on the state of the race.”

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