'Democrats Have a Jewish Problem': Florida Jewish Democrats Accuse Party Leaders of Religious Insensitivity

'Democrats Have a Jewish Problem': Florida Jewish Democrats Accuse Party Leaders of Religious Insensitivity

Some Jewish Democrats are accusing the party of religious insensitivity for refusing to reschedule an election on a Jewish holiday

Liv Caputo
Liv Caputo
April 22, 2024

MIAMI, FL—Miami Democrats are refusing to reschedule a special election for their county chairman on one of the last nights of Passover, prompting some Jewish members to accuse the party of insensitivity to their religion.

Miami-Dade's special election will be held on the same day as Shabbat, a Jewish day of rest and celebration beginning at sundown on Friday—at 7:31 p.m. The special election begins Friday at 7 p.m., meaning many Jewish Democrats will not be present to vote on election day.

County chair candidate Billy Corben, an acclaimed filmmaker, says the Democratic Executive Committee (DEC) election must be postponed to maximize Jewish participation.

"They Wouldn't Tell Our Islamic Members on Ramadan to Send a Proxy"

"Turn on the television. The Democrats have a Jewish problem, and some pundits say they may have an issue with black voters, so how many more minorities can we afford to alienate in this?" Corben told The Floridian, referencing a spike in antisemitic protests across the country.

"There is a perception by many Jewish people that we are not welcome in the Democratic Party. I do not necessarily ascribe to that, but I don't want my fellow Jews to feel that way," he added.

Eden Giagnorio, Communication Director for state Democratic Chairwoman Nikki Fried, who is Jewish, told The Floridian in a statement that the special election will not be rescheduled, insisting the county's bylaws must be abided by.

“The Miami-Dade DEC is required to schedule an election within 45 days from the vacancy. They are also required to give members 15 days' notice for the meeting," the statement reads.  "As Passover begins today, the Miami-Dade DEC is moving forward with a sense of urgency to hold the election for a new chair on Friday."

"Any members who cannot attend in person on Friday may send a proxy to vote on their behalf. The stakes for 2024 are too high to stall progress," it concludes, attempting to include DEC members who will be absent.

Corben was not pleased.

"You can either send a proxy or pound sand—I mean it's not very welcoming and not very inclusive. With Florida Democrats, who needs Republicans? We are our own worst enemies."

"I can't imagine they would tell our Islamic members on Ramadan to send a proxy or pound sand," he added. "I wouldn't stand for that either, by the way."

On his popular Instagram page, Corben also swiped at his rival for the post, Sen. Shevrin Jones, for backing out of a Wednesday candidate forum Corben had created, entitling it "Dems Gonna Dem...".

"A Terrible Situation"

This predicament is the latest race-related controversy to plague the Florida Democratic Party.

Last month, Fried suspended three county party chairs. The executive committee removed the two Black chairs—including one from Miami-Dade whose ousting created this vacancy— while keeping a white woman chair in Palm Beach.

The vacancy was created—ironically—on Palm Sunday, which is 33 days before the jointly scheduled Miami-Dade special election and Shabbat. By the county's bylaws, however, this leaves a week and a half for the election to be pushed back.

"It hasn't even been 30 days yet, so there should be enough time consistent with the 15-day notice. It seems to me that it ought to be pushed back preferably to after Passover—it's a matter of a few days," former state Representative and current Florida Jewish Democratic Caucus board member, Joe Geller, told The Floridian.

While he believed the election's scheduling was a massive oversight, he disagreed that it hinted at an overarching "Jewish problem" within the party.

"It's not just Shabbat—it's Shabbat in the middle of Passover. I don't think it's somebody trying to go out of their way to be insulting or not accommodating, I just think it's not very well thought-out and it is not designed to maximize participation," he said.

"I think the whole thing is a terrible situation, and I'd like to see the party unify as much as possible. I think doing this on a Friday night, especially in the middle of Passover, does not unite us, it further divides us," he continued. "The local party is absolutely not antisemitic, that's ridiculous, but it's not a great idea and it would be better to correct it quickly and just reschedule it at a more convenient time for people."

Nationally, in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel, the party is under fire from within by Jewish members who think the party leaders haven’t done enough to combat antisemitism, which flared up over the weekend in protests at Columbia and Yale universities.

"This is Not a Dying or Damaged Party—It's a Dead Brand"

Meanwhile, Corben turned to the upcoming general election, excoriating party leadership for guiding Florida Democrats into a devastating near-900,000 voter registration deficit to Republicans.

"We're supposed to want to enfranchise voters, we want to maximize turnout—that's supposed to be our thing. And then you look at the voter registrations in this state, and maybe that's not our thing," he said. "Look at the registration numbers: there's a very, very strong possibility that Donald Trump will win Miami-Dade County in November."

In 2016, Democrats won Miami-Dade by 29 points. In 2018, they won by 21 points. In 2020, they won by seven points.

In 2022, they lost by thirteen.

"This is not a positive trend," Corben said. "The people running the show right now are the same people who have run this party right into the ground...This is not a dying or damaged party, this is a dead brand, and nobody's doing anything to help it and honest Democrats are suffering from it."

He turned to money—referencing the Florida GOP raising over $3.5 million in the first quarter versus Florida Dems' $1.3 million.

"We can't raise money because we're not cool—we are losers. Look at a sports team’s crowd and look at their attendance when they're losing," Corben said. "No one shows up for the losing team."

"The reason we have no credibility down here is as Democrats, they don't believe us—they don't trust us. But Florida matters. We're just immune to honesty and truth-telling," he continued.

"Nikki Fried is not running the Florida Democrats, she is running for governor," he said, adding there is nothing wrong with her doing so.

"All I have to say to Nikki Fried is Happy Pesach."

Related Posts

Liv Caputo

Liv Caputo

Livia Caputo is a senior at Florida State University, working on a major in Criminology, and a triple minor in Psychology, Communications, and German. She has been working on a journalism career for the past year, and hopes to become a successful reporter after graduation. Her work has been cited in Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail

Subscribe to the newsletter everyone in Florida is reading.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


More Related Posts