BOSTON – They came to Boston as President Barack Obama’s loyal foot soldiers from Florida, with Israeli and U.S. flag pins on their lapels and months of hard work behind them raising money and trying to woo fellow Jews to vote for Mitt Romney.
But by the end of challenger Mitt Romney’s election party Tuesday night, they had to accept a different reality.
“It’s really disappointing,” said Irene Milin from Boca Raton, a pin with Romney written in Hebrew letters pinned to her blazer.
“I’m really worried because he does not have a good relationship with the president,” she said referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “But it means I will just have to work harder with Congress because that is how we will protect Israel.”
Milin and her husband Michael are also active in AIPAC and have spent time lobbying for Israel. Most recently that lobbying has focused on pressing for tough sanctions and measures against Iran.
“We worked very hard on sanctions but the president was not at all helpful. He wanted to water things down,” said Michael Milin, a real estate developer from Boca Raton.
The couple has taken a long road from 1960s radicals to becoming leading Jewish Republican fundraisers in the state of Florida. Israel, where they emigrated and lived for several years in the 1990s, is their main political passion.
They give money, as Michael Milin says, “to both sides of the aisle” if those candidates support Israel.
Like several of their fellow Jewish donors and activists for Romney, they painted the choice in this election in stark terms. At a special event for major fundraisers earlier in the evening, they spoke with urgency of Romney as the figure with more natural empathy for Israel and the dangers it faces.
But when the results came in, Ned Siegel, who was appointed as ambassador to the Bahamas by former President George W. Bush, struck a conciliatory tone.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us. I think Governor Romney said it eloquently that we all need to work together,” said Siegel.
“I always say Israel is my mother and America is my father and we need to make sure the relationship is really strong. This was a very interesting election, where the popular vote was almost tied and the electoral vote was really a landslide,” he said. “At the end of the day we have to work together.”
Among those who also spoke of bi-partisanship was Stanley G. Tate, who has been dubbed the “Dean of the Jewish Republican vote in Florida” by his friends.
Tate, 85, was both co-chair of the Romney campaign in Miami-Dade County and a leader in the national effort among Republican Jews to recruit other Jewish voters.
He says he is the only surviving founder of AIPAC and he remembers the meeting in New York City in 1956 that launched the lobbying group.
“The whole concept enthralled me because it was about bi-partisanship,” he said.
Meanwhile the Milins will be taking home a pin that may one day be a quirky historic souvenir. “Vote for Romney. It’s a Mitt-zvah.”
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