Obama’s Tempest in a Teapot Boils Over

by Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz

Late last week, August 24, 2012, rumors began to spread that among the rabbis listed on the “Rabbis for Obama” list created by the President’s reelection campaign, was a ringer – Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb. A supporter of a boycott of Israel for its cruelty to Palestinians, Gottlieb, associated with the Jewish Renewal movement, cites the cruelty of the Israelis in dealing with Palestinian farmers who wish merely to live from the bounty of the earth upon which they toil. She calls for equality for Palestinians residing in the territory “from the Mediterranean to the Jordan.”

A colleague of mine closely associated with the Democrat Party, when made aware of this “faux pas,” immediately sprung into action. Through e-mails, he has kept me aware of his every move. His first step was to contact the local Democrat Party office. This led, after several calls, to being put through to “inner” staff at the White House. He was informed that, when the President became aware of the problem, he was furious. Removing the Rabbi’s name from the list, however, he was told, is not a simple matter. For the President to reject an individual’s support in public is a severe step. Indeed, when considering some of the individuals supporting the President and their rather radical views, one can understand the conundrum faced in distancing the President from a Rabbi. All the more is this the case as the President knows recent statistics demonstrate his support among Jewish voters is becoming weaker by the hour.

And it gets worse. It has now been learned that the net cast for rabbis by the Democrat machine has caught other “fishy” rabbis as well. Jonathan S. Tobin, in an article in Commentary entitled “Obama Rabbis Must Disavow Anti-Zionist(s),” reports that Gottlieb is not the only anti-Zionist rabbi on the last. The list includes eight such rabbis associated with the notoriously anti-Israel organization called the “Jewish Voice for Peace” who are listed on their Rabbinic list.

One must ask – how it is possible that the names of anti-Zionist Rabbis were included on the “Rabbis for Obama” list all the more as the President is faced with a growing sense in the Jewish community that his credentials as a friend of Israel are questionable and this list was created specifically to show that hundreds of Jewish clergy believe the President has a strong and positive position on Israel?

The answer, as was told to me by my colleague, is that a lowly staff person was assigned the job of getting 613 rabbis to sign on to the list. That’s it, get rabbis to sign on. No vetting, no checking out the affiliations of the rabbis, their denominations, their organizational associations, past statements that may not be in tune with the President’s views – just get me some rabbis. And dutifully, this individual did just that. He/she opened the telephone book and began calling rabbis.

What does this all mean for the Jewish voter? As any voter, the Jewish voter should cast his/her ballot for candidates who best represent the voter’s views. The issues on today’s political agenda are clear. The economy is first and foremost on everyone’s list. The classical view that American society is built upon the bedrock of the Judeo-Christian value system is as well a challenge to our society. Immigration, traditionally an important value of our Republic, is being broadened by some to include, as its advocates state, “undocumented individuals,” i.e., illegal immigrants. The international scene, particularly Afghanistan and Iran, are important matters to consider when entering the voting booth. For the Jewish voter, however, there is also the important matter of the lives of our brothers and sisters, now numbering almost 6,000,000, living in the State of Israel.

Traditionally, politicians understand how to cultivate support in the “patchwork quilt” that is American Society, comprising many religions, cultures and nationalities. They learn to understand the passions of these very elements in American society and, if they are clever, develop a cadre of advocates in each of them. When necessary, they can activate their surrogates to curry optimum support from these very groups. The Jewish community is no different.

For me, the inclusion of anti-Israel rabbis on a support list for President Obama cannot be written off as merely a faux pas. It’s rather indicative, at best, of a rather casual attitude by Democrats toward the Jewish vote and, at worst, reveals the approach the President has toward the Jewish community in the United States and its passions, one of which is the survival, prosperity and, most important, the safety of our brothers and sisters in the State of Israel. Embedded upon my memory is President Obama’s statement before AIPAC that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of the State of Israel and, on the very next day, newspapers reporting that the President supports Jerusalem being divided to serve as the capitals of both the Israeli and Palestinian states.