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Schlepping for Obama

The Boston roots of Sarah Silverman's Jewbama crusade
By SARA FAITH ALTERMAN  |  October 9, 2008

VIDEO: Sarah Silverman and the Great Schlep

Chances are, by now you’ve heard about the Great Schlep, the Sarah Silverman–endorsed political/social experiment that’s urging Jewish youth to trek down to vital swing-state Florida this weekend and encourage their doting grandparents to vote for Barack Obama. But did you know, smarty pants, that the movement originated in Cambridge? (Very disappointing, Brookline — I thought you’d be all over this.) The idea was conceived by Marla Felcher, an adjunct professor at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government and a fervid Obama supporter.

“I teach marketing for nonprofits,” says Felcher. “Part of that is social marketing, and how to figure out whose opinion the target market values. I’d read a New York Times article about elderly Jews in Florida who aren’t supporting Obama. I started thinking about my mother, and whose opinion she values, and there’s a clear answer — Jewish grandparents value and listen to their grandchildren. So let’s get the grandchildren to do the work.”

While the project has quickly gained popularity via a viral video featuring Silverman in all her adorably caustic glory, Felcher first got it off the ground in micro-viral fashion. “I wrote up a pitch letter and e-mailed it to everyone I knew. I figured somebody would know somebody who would know somebody.”

Turns out, somebody knew somebody who knew long-time Phoenix contributor Harvey Silverglate and his wife, Elsa Dorfman, who loved the concept and passed it along to their son, Isaac, who works for New York ad agency Droga5. The agency, along with a political action committee, the Jewish Council for Education and Research, ran with Felcher’s idea, and the grassroots movement has taken on a life of its own. Until November 4, anyway.

“I think the Great Schlep is important for this particular election, for this set of circumstances,” says Felcher. “Hopefully we won’t need it the next time. President Obama will do such a good job that all the Jews will rally around him for his second term.”

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  Topics: This Just In , Barack Obama , Sarah Silverman , Elections and Voting ,  More more >
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