Jewish voters at Olivette polling place weigh in on election

Carol Kaplan-Lyss voted at Old Bonhomme Elementary School.

By Eric Berger, Staff Writer

On the morning of Election Day, Hillary Hinz and her two sons were discussing their favorite musical, “Hamilton,” and how it tells of the peaceful transition of power from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson.
“No matter what, it doesn’t feel like we are going to have a peaceful transition of power,” said Hinz, a Hillary Clinton supporter who brought her elementary and middle school-aged children from her home in Olivette to vote at Old Bonhomme Elementary School. “Even the (Al Gore-George W. Bush) election, it felt like at the end, there was a respectful transition and an acceptance.”
As could be expected, the majority of the Jewish voters who agreed to be interviewed were supporting Clinton. Polls throughout the campaign showed American Jews heavily favoring the Democrat. 
Among those voters — not all of whom supported Clinton — there were common fears about what would happen in the next year, regardless of who is elected. 
As Hinz wondered, would the losing candidate concede defeat? Clinton has said that she would accept the outcome of the election. Donald Trump told the moderator at the last debate, “I will keep you in suspense.”
Will the Senate accept — or even consider — Clinton’s nominee to the Supreme Court? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after Justice Antonin Scalia died that “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.” The Republican-controlled Senate has refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. 
Will Americans be able to moved past the bitter divisions exposed and exacerbated by this election cycle?
What will happen at the state level, where two Jewish candidates were running for governor and U.S. senator? Republican gubernatorial nominee Eric Greitens, a Jewish former Navy SEAL, was seeking to defeat Chris Koster, the Missouri attorney general and a Democrat.  In the senate race, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, a Jewish Democrat, was trying to defeat the Republican incumbent, Roy Blunt. 
Jews in the middle-class to upper middle-class Olivette municipality had a variety of takes on these questions. 
“I hope the country can start to heal and move forward in a positive way,” said Hinz, who also has lived in Connecticut, Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee and Texas. 
In addition to using “Hamilton” to educate on the federal election, Hinz, who is supporting Koster and Kander, is discussing the importance of state and local elections with her boys.
“We think of the presidential election as the election but I think the state elections are just as critical, so I am trying to teach how critical voting on all levels is,” said Hinz, who is an active volunteer with National Council of Jewish Women and the Anti-Defamation League.
Carol Kaplan-Lyss, a retired teacher from the Clayton School District, echoed Hinz’s thoughts on the presidential race.  
“If Mrs. Clinton wins, and Trump creates a ruckus, I am very afraid of that. I am very afraid if he wins. I just feel that if he wins, our country is in danger; he’s very erratic and so narcissistic that I don’t think he’s really thinking of our country, that he’s thinking just of himself.”
Kaplan-Lyss is the founder of a Jewish singing group, Shir Ami, and her husband Michael Lyss, an architect, is part of HaShemesh, an instrumental group that performs Israeli, Hassidic, Yiddish and Yemenite melodies.
“I absolutely think that Mrs. Clinton will have a particular place in her heart for middle-class people and people who need jobs. And the inclusiveness that is important to her is also important to me,” said Kaplan-Lyss, 74.
Not all the Jewish voters interviewed were anxious about the outcome of the election. Ed Karfeld, who wore a Marine jacket and a University of Missouri sweatshirt, said that the main thing on his mind as he headed into vote was, “Get it over with.”
Karfeld is a St. Louis native who attended college and law school at Mizzou and served as a Marine in the Vietnam War. He now works as a bankruptcy lawyer. He identifies as Jewish but is not particularly involved in the Jewish community.
“It’s been an arduous year and a half,” he said. “I did not vote for anybody; I voted against somebody.”
He describes himself as an independent and said he voted for Democrats and Republicans but declined to say who he was supporting in the presidential contest.
What happens tomorrow? “Life will go on.”
Are you worried? “Nope, it does no good to worry.”
Will the country be able to heal? “We have healed for over 200 years; we’ll heal.”
Sue Weintraub isn’t so sure. 
“I think (Trump) has unleashed a lot of things that I’m nervous about,” said Weintraub, 60. “He has allowed a lot of people to be brave in their biases and speak them out loud, and that’s what is really worrisome.”
Weintraub also is concerned that even if Clinton wins, Republican legislators will automatically block any of the Democrat’s proposals and Supreme Court nominees.
“They did the same thing with Obama in the last year. As one article said, ‘He didn’t stop being president a year ago. He didn’t have a three-year term.’ And yet they wouldn’t even look at his nominee. Are they going to do the same thing with Hillary if in fact she gets elected? 
“And on other issues as well as the Supreme Court? Does that mean we are going to get nothing done? That’s not how our democracy is supposed to work — at least that’s not how I understood it,” added Weintraub, a Hadassah member who said she is spending a lot of her time these days with her toddler granddaughter.
Eli Nissenboim, an Israeli landscaper, says he is hoping for “peace and love,” but he thinks the Democrats and Clinton are “too soft” on national security issues.
“I voted for the crazy man. He’s crazy,” said Nissenboim, referring to Trump. “Hillary is not strong enough to run the world because everyone is laughing about this country, especially this election.”
He listed “peace with the Palestinians” as a primary concern.
“I believe in a strong Israel, too, but I hope there will be peace. (The Palestinians) deserve a country, too,” said Nissenboim, who is thinking about retiring soon. “Not completely retiring, just enjoying life more.”
He doesn’t think Clinton or Trump will be able to forge a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. 
Asked what will be the day after the election, Nissenboim said, “I’m sure Hillary is going to win, but…” And then he just shrugged his shoulders.