A senior Israeli rabbi with influence among almost 150,000 American Jews ruled Tuesday that they should vote for President George W. Bush in the upcoming US elections, his office said.
Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv, responding to queries from Americans residing in Israel, has decided that Bush is better for Israel than his competitor, John Kerry, said an assistant to the rabbi, Haim Cohen.
Elyashiv’s opinions are respected by large ultra-Orthodox communities, especially in Israel and the US. Elyashiv has strong influence over about half of all haredi Jews of European origin.
“Apparently George Bush loves Israel and thus we need to vote for him,” the rabbi said Tuesday, according to Cohen.
The rabbi does not usually rule on political matters, especially those that don’t directly concern Israel. But Elyashiv decided that the US is a “kingdom of grace,” or great friend to Israel, and thus the elections there can directly influence the Jewish state, Cohen said.
About 140,000 American Orthodox Jews will probably abide by Elyashiv’s decision, said Sam Heilman, an expert on American Jews at Queens College in New York. But Elyashiv is just confirming the theories of many analysts who believe most haredi Jews in the US vote Republican, Heilman said in a telephone interview from his office.
“What’s extraordinary is that the rabbi is addressing non-Israelis in a sense,” Heilman said. “This confirms that the Orthodox community, by and large, is supporting Bush more than Kerry.”
But those Orthodox Jews who are already dead set on Kerry will not necessarily change their minds, despite Elyashiv’s ruling, Heilman said.
The rabbi’s decision will influence the vote of at least 10,000 American Jews currently residing in Israel, at least 700 of whom are from the battleground state of Florida, he said.