After two years of primaries, endorsements, conventions, speeches, and debates, the general election is finally almost here.
With one final examination of the issues at stake in the election, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and the Government Affairs Committee of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago is sponsoring a special two-part election series.
The first, pre-election part of the series, held Monday at the Lillian and Larry Goodman Conference Center at JUF's headquarters, featured Susan Sher and Samuel Skinner.
Sher is the former chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama and the former White House liaison to the Jewish community, and the current executive vice president for Corporate Strategy and Public Affairs at University of Chicago Medical Center.
Skinner is the former chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush and current partner at Greenberg Traurig, LLC.
The two speakers, respectful of one another, examined the issues in a friendly, non-combative way. They each represented their personal views and not the views of Pres. Obama or Gov. Romney.
David A. Sherman, chairman of the JUF/JF Board, and Andy Hochberg, chairman of the Government Affairs Committee-as well as members of the audiences-asked Sher and Skinner a series of questions, covering a range of topics including how to promote a bipartisan culture in Congress, cutting government spending, campaign finance reform, immigration reform, the gender gap in the election, healthcare, and Israel security.
Outgoing Illinois State Sen. Susan Garrett, who attended the luncheon, shed light on the disillusionment that the American people feel when it comes to politics and distractions. "Is there a disconnect between what is talked about on the cable news shows and what people are really feeling?" Garrett asked. "…At both the state and federal level, people feel that no one is listening to them…"
"Unfortunately in these days of negative politics, we watch stuff that is totally irrelevant to what the candidate is going to do or not do," Skinner said. Sher added that "people use these negative ads because they have studies to show that they work."
At the end of the luncheon, a member of the audience asked for the speakers to comment on Israel security. Sher defended Obama's record on Israel and asserted that both candidates would act as strong friends to the Israeli government. "When one considers these administrations whether it's Romney or Obama, the devotion and importance of Israel shouldn't be the distinction in terms of one's vote," she said.
Then, Skinner, who traveled with his family to Israel last summer with the help of JUF, discussed the complexity of the issues facing Israel and the challenges that whoever the next president is will face in acting as a partner in the peace process. "…Every president, Republican or Democrat, would like to be the one to solve [the conflict]… the question is what do you as an American president on behalf of the United States do and how do you play a role in minimizing all that's going on in [the Middle East]...the president has to make sure he has the right people around him who are experts in the field who will really take a thoughtful, long term approach to how we get there."
"It was refreshing to hear two people engage in civil disagreement while thoughtfully arguing complex and often emotionally charged issues," said David Prystowsky, executive director of JCRC and Government Affairs.
The post-election Debrief, co-sponsored by JUF's Young Leadership Division and Trades, Industries and Professions (TIP) Divisions, will be held the day after the election, Wed, Nov. 7. For more information or to register, visit www.juf.org/jcrc/hoffman.aspx, call (312) 357-4770, or e-mail JCRC1@juf.org.