A series of profanity-laced pro-Barack Obama videos starring comedian Sarah Silverman and actor Samuel L. Jackson that have gone viral in recent weeks can be traced back to an unusually-named super PAC: Jewish Council for Education and Research.
In the videos, Jackson tells apathetic voters to "wake the fuck up!" and vote for Obama, while Silverman offers to perform a sex act on major conservative super PAC donor Sheldon Adelson if he switches to supporting Democrats. In another video, Silverman says voter ID fraud legislation will hurt voters who are young, minorities or poor.
But what's so Jewish about fighting voter apathy, mega-donations to super PACs or the proliferation of voter ID fraud legislation?
"On the right, people are very quick to wear their Jewishness on their sleeve in terms of politics ... We thought it was important that there be a Jewish political action committee and voice on the left," said Mik Moore, president of Jewish Council on Education and Research. "I think what we're doing resonates for Jews, but we are speaking to a broader audience. Everything we do has a Jewish element."
The Jackson video, a play upon a popular book by Jewish author Adam Mansbach called "Go the Fuck to Sleep," shows Jackson magically showing up at the homes of disaffected voters to yell at them to vote for Obama. In a Silverman video released last week, the actress sits by her "nana," who she says could be disenfranchised by new voting laws because she doesn't have a photo ID. In another video from July, Silverman touts herself as being a "Jewess with big naturals" while addressing an imaginary Adelson, also a Jew, to convince him to give $100 million to support Obama.
Moore, 38, formerly worked for Jewish social justice organization Bend the Arc and has worked for unions and government agencies. The online-only videos made by his super PAC have been aimed at "people who typically vote Democratic" and are intended to encourage more Democratic voters to get to the ballot box, he said. While a larger and Sheldon-supported rival super PAC, the Republican Jewish Coalition, has targeted its ads toward Obama's relationship with Israel, Moore's campaign has focused on domestic issues.
More pro-Obama videos are expected for release before the election. The Jewish Council for Education and Research was given $200,00 in April by Alex Soros, the son of billionaire philanthropist and liberal political donor George Soros. (George Soros plans to donate $1 million to the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA.) In total, Moore's organization will spend $300,000 to $400,000 on videos this year.
Moore started the Jewish Council for Education and Research in 2008 after he began to feel that Jewish voters were specifically being targeted by anti-Obama messages in the political discourse. There was a "smear campaign that was being used to scare Jewish voters from a candidate whose personal story was very familiar to American Jews and whose values resonated with American Jews," he said. There was "not much of an organized and explicitly Jewish support for Obama, so we felt we needed to get together."
Four years ago, Moore's group had success with another video starring Silverman called "The Great Schlep," which encouraged Jews to lobby their grandparents in Florida to vote for Obama.
While polls show that four in ten American Jews identify as secular and are not part of a particular denomination, Moore, who lives in New York City, said his faith has been a highly important part of his family life and work. A fourth-generation Reconstructionist Jew -- his ancestors helped found the theologically and socially liberal Reconstructionist movement -- he attends West End synagogue in Manhattan's Upper West Side.
"Jews are a core group for the Democratic party. If [Obama] is going to win, Jews need to turn out on election day and volunteer and give money," he said.
But when it comes to Jewish voters, Moore may not have too much work to do. Several polls have shown Obama leading Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney among Jewish voters. (There are about six million Jews in the nation. The number of Jewish voters is less clear.) The most recent poll, released Thursday by the American Jewish Committee, showed that 65 percent of those surveyed would vote for Obama, 24 percent would pick Romney and 10 percent were undecided. Among the undecided, 63 percent said they were leaning toward Obama.
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