Suddenly, all across the Empire State, Jewish voters are flocking to help beleaguered Sen. Edward M. Kennedy win the March 25 Democratic presidential primary.
In the wake of the US vote in the United Nations Security Council condemning Israel, Jewish leaders in New York have been getting aboard the Kennedy campaign bandwagon, which until recently had been running more like a cranky Model T Ford than a powerful modern-day political machine.
It may be too late for the Massachusets senator to pick up the necessary momentum to win him the biggest share of the 282 Democratic delegates at stake in this state. But polls show that he has picked up at least 10 percentage points since the March 1 UN vote, which the Carter administration later disavowed, and now is trailing the President by only 10 points.
The New York primary is being portrayed as a make-or-break stand for Senator Kennedy by some of his top aides here.
Rabbi Alexander Schindler, head of the New York City-based Union of American Hebrew Congregations; Jerold Hoffberger, leader of the United Israel Appeal; and Louis Weinstein, president of the American Coalition of Jewish Presidents, have all endorsed the senator. Mr. Hoffberger joined in after the UN vote; the two others already had supported Mr. Kennedy.
In addition, the National Council of Young Israel, a pro-Israeli youth group here in New York, has begun distributing literature that could be classified as anti-Carter, although it stops just short of being pro-Kennedy.
Hyman Bookbinder, a spokesman for the American Jewish Committee in Washington , D.C., told the Monitor: "It's clear that Kennedy is going to do better now than he would have before the UN vote." Richard Cohen, a public relations consultant to some American Jewish organizations, said there is a clear groundswell of new Jewish support for Mr. Kennedy.
On the other hand, some Jewish spokesmen here said that it is too late for Mr. Kennedy to turn the tide against the President. Some leading New York politicians such as Robert Abrams, New York state attorney general, differ strongly with this view.
Even New York City Mayor Edward I. Koch, one of President Carter's strongest supporters, has lambasted the Carter administration for its vote in the Security Council against Israeli settlements. While later amending his strong criticism so as not to blame President Carter directly, most political analysts here say the initial salvo was strong enough to influence many Jews to withdraw support for the President.
More than a third of registered Democrats in New York State are Jewish, and the Kennedy camp is confident that Carter reaction by Jews to the UN vote, which first surfaced in Miami in the Florida primary, will manifest itself into tangible delegates here.
Meanwhile, the Carter forces have pulled out all the stops here, sending in numerous "big guns," including Vice-President Walter Mondale, to try to placate angry Jewish voters.
Mayor Koch, who already has been at odds with the administration over its urban policy, says he is satisfied with Mr. Carter's explanation that the UN vote was a mistake, but he nevertheless denounced five present and former administration officials, including Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, as being "viciously anti-Israel."
Mr. Vance called the Koch accusation "hogwash."