When President Obama made public his support for gay marriage on May 9th on an ABC interview, and re-affirmed his belief at an LGBT Leadership Council fundraiser, he garnered a range of reactions from fervent support to avid disapproval. Apparently the president’s announcement has generally not affected people’s opinions of Obama, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center, but there was a major discrepancy between the older and younger adults surveyed: 42 percent of people over 65 viewed the president less favorably while 62 percent of respondents between 18 and 29 years old did not.
In the greater American Jewish community, the resonating feedback reflects the general liberal viewpoint that has been prominent in the demographic. That is, most American Jews would probably be in support of Obama’s statement since we have always been in support of the ostracized and discriminated against as we were ourselves not too long ago. Yet, within the demographic is a substantial Russian Jewish population that greatly disagrees with homosexuality, but especially in the right of marriage for homosexual couples.
On my own college campus of Rutgers University, the feelings of jubilation and optimism for a freer and more just society were somewhat conspicuous, as it lies in the fairly liberal state of New Jersey. The local gay community is quite active but did not respond with any events like parades, fundraisers or guest lecturers as one would expect after such a significant change in governmental viewpoint. Yet, there may be a silent response because of the controversy surrounding a current case that has impacted the Rutgers populace: Dharun Ravi, a Rutgers student, has been sentenced to prison time for invasion of privacy for using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate, who later committed suicide. Regardless, the number of gay and lesbian groups on campus and the openness with which the community interacts with the wider student body proves that this case was neither detrimental nor typical of the average student.
The past few weeks have been filled with events that pushed the limits of diplomacy with the Islamic Republic of Iran, including attacks on Israeli diplomats in Georgia, India and Thailand. No one was killed in any of the attacks, but the secretive operations point to the tension between Iran and Israel. Another bomb plot was unfolded in neighboring Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic, where Iranian operatives reportedly planned to take out Israeli targets in the capital of Baku.
The so-called “shadow war” has come at a time when Iran has opened its doors to the International Atomic Energy Agency for inspection of its nuclear facilities. The visit was considered a failure by the IAEA after it was denied access to the Parchin military complex, where inspectors believe nuclear weapons are designed. Meanwhile, economic pressure from abroad is putting Iran in a volatile position, as European Union sanctions on Iran’s fuel exports continue, and Iran has cut oil exports to France and Britain in retaliation.
The threat of Iran’s nuclear weapons program and its influence on exporting terror by supporting extremist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are of vital importance to Israel and its main ally, the United States. My family immigrated to the United States after being persecuted for generations in the Soviet Union. Like many other Russian Jews, we feel a strong connection to Israel.