‘Super Jewish’ District Turns ‘Super Russian’

The newly-drawn City Council District 48. (Image via Center for Urban Research)

The newly-drawn City Council District 48. (Image via Center for Urban Research)

It was once dubbed the “Super Jewish” district, with its high concentration of Orthodox and politically active voters, but after the last redistricting, City Council District 48 is more “Super Russian,” with many residents having origins in the former Soviet Union, reports The Jewish Week‘s Steve Lipman.

While a sizable number of Russians follow the Jewish faith – Jews in Russian-speaking households make up 18 percent of the citywide Jewish population – the percentage of Jewish voters in the district has decreased from about 50 percent to 30 with the newly drawn lines. Nonetheless, the Jewish community still bears a formidable presence. All four candidates running on the November 5 general elections are Jewish, and three of them have Russian roots.

What could this mean on Election Day when the district votes for a new city councilman to replace term-limited incumbent Democrat Mike Nelson? While the district has been traditionally Democratic, Russian Jews tend to be more conservative and support Republicans in greater numbers than American-born Jews.

Candidates (clockwise): Chaim Deutsch (D), David Storobin (R), Gregory Davidzon (I), Igor Oberman (WFP) (Photos from candidate websites and social media pages; Davidzon photo via Ari Kagan's website)

Candidates (clockwise): Chaim Deutsch (D), David Storobin (R), Gregory Davidzon (I), Igor Oberman (WFP) (Photos from candidate websites and social media pages; Davidzon photo via Ari Kagan’s website)

The story list the candidates for District 48, which “includes parts of Midwood, Sheepshead Bay, Homecrest, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Luna Park, Trump Village and Brightwater Towers”:

Chaim Deutsch, a Democrat, served as Nelson’s chief of operations. A Brooklyn native, he is a longtime community activist and a founder of the Flatbush Shomrim Safety Patrol.

David Storobin, a Republican, is an attorney who briefly served in the State Senate. He is a native of the Dagestan region of Russia.

Igor Oberman, lost to Deutsch in the Democratic primary but continues his campiagn on the Working Families ballot. A native of Russia, he is an attorney who served as a Russian-speaking liaison in the office of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Gregory Davidzon, an independent, entered the race two weeks ago as a write-in candidate. A native of Uzbekistan, he is a businessman who owns a local Russian-language radio station and several Russian-language newspapers and magazines. A self-described “kingmaker,” he’s not a member of any party, is not registered to vote and has endorsed both Democrats and Republicans in past elections.

The strength of the Jewish vote is not necessarily diluted, believes Josh Mehlman, founder of the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition, a local Jewish advocate group.

“Many people are looking [at the election] as an opportunity to win the community back,” Mehlman says – in other words, the Council election is a way to reassert Jewish electoral clout in a district that was divided by the City Council’s Redistricting Commission last year.

“Most people in the city,” from various ethnic backgrounds, “elect someone who is like them,” Mehlman says; hence, four Jewish Council candidates in an area that also includes residents from scores of other ethnic and religious backgrounds.

According to Mehlman, campaigning for the City Council seat has mostly taken the form of mailed flyers and newspaper ads in English and Russian. He went on to say:

“The Jewish community cares deeply about funding our social service organizations [that] are the safety net for the poor, sick and needy,” he added.

Democrat Deutsch is a familiar name among many voters due to his work with the Flatbush Shomrim Safety Patrol, a volunteer neighborhood watch group. In the September primaries, he narrowly beat out Ari Kagan, a district leader and journalist with the Russian-language publication Vecherniy New York. Deutsch got 33.9 percent compared to Kagan’s 30.6. Kagan has endorsed independent Davidzon.

Republican Storobin is already familiar with going after the Russian Jewish vote. He represented District 27 in the State Senate after beating Democratic opponent Lew Fidler by a mere 14 votes in a special election to replace disgraced state Sen. Carl Kruger in May 2012. The Brooklyn Ink examined Storobin’s efforts to court the Russian Jewish vote last year. Democrat Simcha Felder would go on to win the seat, which is now State Senate District 17 (Midwood, Flatbush, Borough Park, Kensington, Sunset Park, Madison and Bensonhurst) due to redistricting.

Davidzon recently announced a write-in campaign. The media mogul and “proclaimed ‘Kingmaker’ of the Russian-American,” as Sheepshead Bites put it, is seen as a potential spoiler for Storobin.

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