Its mostly enthusiasm that keeps Jews working on Democratic campaigns

goffstown, n.h. | Jake Honigman says it’s easier than raising money for Jewish causes. Emily Silver says its addictive qualities postpone the nice Jewish husband scenario for which her mother hankers.

Plumping for candidates along New Hampshire’s frozen byways and among its famously irascible voters is, for some young Jewish activists, the best life there is this political season. With U.S. Jews split among the seven Democratic candidates, almost every campaign has Jewish staffers working at jobs from the very top to the very bottom.

Their enthusiasm — and little else — carries through hundreds of monotonous campaign tasks.

Democratic campaigns moved south and west after New Hampshire voters favored John Kerry, with Howard Dean coming in second place. Wesley Clark and John Edwards tied for third, with Joseph Lieberman following behind them.

Honigman, 21, would have been content campaigning for Dean for nothing, but his skills as an organizer means he gets paid, albeit not much.

“At this point, these jobs are great, because they’re not permanent, but you get some responsibility,” he said. “They’re intense. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a good time.”

The “good time” Honigman enjoys as an area coordinator presumably takes into account the frequent hang-ups he gets when he calls his new neighbors — and the answering machines that warn campaigners not to leave a message.

It’s par for the course, says Honigman, who once raised money in New York for the United Jewish Appeal in phone campaigns.

“This is nothing compared to that,” he says. “That was a lot worse.”

Evidence of the Brooklyn native’s hard month on the road surrounds him. There is only one screw keeping his front passenger door attached to the car, a screw Honigman installed. It’s not fooling the car, which registers an incessant ding that Honigman has learned to tune out.

Across town, Silver plots strategy from the relative comfort of a minivan while her candidate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), campaigns door to door.

Silver, 24, is Lieberman’s deputy director in New Hampshire. At her desk — in the back corner of the campaign’s second-floor office — the phone is ringing off the hook. There are campaign flyers for her to OK, media requests to be sorted out and the schedules of four members of the Lieberman family to coordinate.

“There’s so much going on, I can’t be away from home.” She means the office, and corrects herself, laughing.

Silver, a Brandeis University graduate who first came to New Hampshire in 2002 for a congressional campaign, has been with Lieberman’s operation for more than a year. She has seen it swell from two people to the more than 30.

It is hard for Silver to explain to people outside the “bubble” of campaign life why she loves long hours, with no weekends or vacations, and constant stress.

“It’s addictive because you feel you’re doing something useful and you’re making a difference,” she said.

Plus, there are the intangibles, like when the candidate invites you over for dinner. Or having the candidate’s mother suggest you get haircuts together.

“The lifestyle is so crazy,” Silver says. “My mom would like to see me marry a good Jewish boy and settle down.”