Spent Thursday night with a group of Jewish folks,mainly couples, mainly in their 60s and 70s, at the Jewish Community Center. Talk about salt of the earth! It was one of those audiences that you get more comfortable with the longer you stay with them. Hugely well informed and diverse about politics. When my prepared remarks (such as they were!) flattened out, they juiced up the evening with a flurry of good provocative questions. Took several ad hoc polls, and, for what its worth, Bush won the presidential straw poll over Kerry. The reason? Belief that hes serious about supporting Israel, although some of those expressing a preference did so for reasons of economic conservatism as well. But the mix of viewpoints and perspectives (about equally split on Iraq, for example) was impressive.
Dont want to mention too many names for fear of inadvertently stiffing some people, but have to mention Bernard and Miriam Danzig, with whom I shared a table (and some prior personal history); the Weiners, who are friends and boosters of Democratic lawyer (and erstwhile city council candidate) Jim Strickland; Steve Shankman, who made my day once with a phone-call version of a fan letter; the Felt Brothers, who undertook to educate me about the demographics of Palestine, and Max Notowitz, whom I remembered from twenty years ago as one of Memphis premiere runners. (Physical problems have sidelined him since, but he still looks stout.) I had forgotten that Max had spent time in a concentration camp as a boy and was somewhat jolted to be reminded -- both because I had relegated that era of human history of a longer-ago time than it actually was and because it is always a jolt to be reminded what human beings are capable of (there are, of course, some present-tense reminders as well).
Max told me stories of hiding out in a Polish forest after escaping from the concentration camp and having to do some hard things to survive. He never lost his morality in the process, however, and he emigrated to the U.S., determined to raise a family, protect it, educate it, and see it thrive in an environment of freedom. All by himself, hes the real deal, a reminder of what our political process is all about. So was the evening. Thanks, all.