Will a rabbi’s blessing help Barack Obama? What about 300 rabbis? And will the IRS find this arrangement kosher?
“Rather than sit and yell at my television, I thought there was an opportunity to do something,” said Rabbi Steven Bob of Congregation Etz Chaim in Lombard, Ill, in the western suburbs of Chicago.
Rabbis for Obama, a grassroots group of 368 rabbis as of Thursday, Sept. 11, from Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist synagogues across the country who hope that by lending their support to the Democratic nominee they can persuade other Jews to back him too, is the brainchild of Bob and Rabbi Sam Gordon of Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette, Ill.
The push, which they say is independent of their synagogues [“I’m not using any of the platforms provided me by the synagogue, neither the bulletin or the bima. This is me doing this personally,” Bob said], is believed to be the largest organized effort by Jewish leaders to support one candidate or presidential ticket. Rabbis have taken out newspaper ads and spoken for or against candidates, but Jewish historians cannot recall a comparable effort.
Their synagogues are not endorsing a candidate, which could lead to the IRS revoking their non-profit status. In announcing their support, Rabbis for Obama announced only the rabbis’ names and hometowns – without their synagogues - to avoid the implication that the synagogues are backing Obama.
What clergy can or can’t say to the congregations about the candidates or issues was a topic raised during a panel discussion at the Democratic National Convention in Denver last month. Several experts on the law said that clergy can discuss issues and the campaigns from the pulpit, but warned they need to be careful not to indicate their support for a particular candidate.
Prominent rabbis in the group include Rabbi Elliot Dorf of Los Angeles, Rabbi Jack Moline of Alexandria, Va, who spoke at the Democratic National Convention, Rabbi Burton Visotzky of New York, Rabbi Janet Marder of Palo Alto, Calif., and Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus of Homewood, Ill.
The rabbis felt moved to take an active role in the presidential campaign because of what they saw as a unique opportunity to influence the outcome of an election in which Jewish voters are receiving more attention than they can recall in any recent election.
Believing that Obama and Republican John McCain are equally “pro-Israel,” it was domestic issues such as abortion, separation of church and state that were “gigantic issues” that factored into their decision to publicly support Obama, according to Bob.
“If the question is Israel, I think it’s evidently clear that the differences on the two are very, very small,” Bob said.
Rabbis for Obama members as of Sept. 11, 2008:
Chair: Rabbi Sam Gordon, Wilmette, IL Co-chair: Rabbi Steven Bob, Glen Ellyn, IL Vice- Chairs: Rabbi Rachel Cowan, New York, NY Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus, Homewood, IL Rabbi Steve Foster, Denver, CO Rabbi Dayle Friedman, Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Laura Geller, Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Don Gluckman, Pikesville, MD Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, Wyncote, PA Rabbi Charles Kroloff, Westfield, NJ Rabbi Richard N. Levy, Encino, CA Rabbi Brian Lurie, San Francisco, CA Rabbi Rachel Mikva, Rye Brook, NY Rabbi Jack Moline, Alexandria, VA Rabbi Charles Simon, New York, NY Rabbi David Teutsch, Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Ethan Tucker, New York, NY Rabbi Burt Visotzky, New York, NY Members: Rabbi Jonathan Aaron, Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Bruce Abrams, Cleveland Heights, OH Rabbi David Adelson, New York, NY Rabbi Adam M. Allenberg, Mountain View, CA Rabbi Victor Appell, New York, NY Rabbi Stephen A. Arnold, S. Easton, MA Rabbi Aryeh Azriel, Omaha, NE Rabbi Larry Bach, El Paso, TX Rabbi Andy Bachman, Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Chava Bahle, Suttons Bay, MI Rabbi Andrew Baker, Washington, D.C. Rabbi Michael Barenbaum, Marin, CA Rabbi Benjy Bar-Lev, Cincinnati, OH Rabbi Lewis Barth, Encino, CA Rabbi Morris Barzilai, New Rochelle, NY Rabbi Elliot Baskin, Greenwood Village, CO Rabbi Renee Bauer, Madison WI Rabbi Pamela Frydman Baugh, San Francisco, CA Rabbi Leonard I. Beerman, Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Annie Belford, St. Louis, MO Rabbi Karen Bender, Tarzana, CA Rabbi Donald R. Berlin, St. Michaels, MD Rabbi Linda Bertenthal, Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Marjorie Berman, Philadelphia PA Rabbi Phyllis Berman Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Jonathan Biatch, Madison, WI Rabbi Michael Birnholz, Vero Beach, FL Rabbi Aaron B. Bisno, Pittsburgh, PA Rabbi Joshua Boettiger , Bennington, VA Rabbi Terry Bookman, Miami, Fl Rabbi Jill Borodin, Seattle, WA Rabbi Mark Borovitz, Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Neal Borovitz River Edge, NJ Rabbi Sara Brandes, Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Herbert Bronstein, Glencoe, IL Rabbi Lester Bronstein, White Plains, NY Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, New York, NY Rabbi Gustav Buchdahl, Baltimore, MD Rabbi Caryn Broitman, W. Tisbury, MA Rabbi Daniel M. Bronstein, Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Carol Caine Berkeley, CA Rabbi Debra S. Cantor Newington, CT Rabbi Carie Carter, Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Kenneth Chasen, Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Steven Chester, Oakland, CA Rabbi Diane Cohen, Los Angeles Rabbi Hillel Cohn, San Bernardino, CA Rabbi David J. Cooper, Piedmont, CA Rabbi Julian I. Cook, Denver, CO Rabbi Mychal Copeland, Stanford, CA Rabbi Laurie Coskey, Poway, CA Rabbi Rachel Cowan, New York, NY Rabbi Meryl M. Crean, Media, PA Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Berkeley, CA Rabbi William Cutter, Los Angeles, CO Rabbi Eric Cytryn, Harrisburg, PA Rabbi Harry K Danziger, Germantown, TN Rabbi Andrew Davids, Croton On Hudson, NY Rabbi Stanley Davids, Santa Monica, CA Rabbi Jerome Davidson, Kings Point, NY Rabbi Eliezer Diamond, Teaneck, NJ Rabbi Fred Dobb, Bethesda, MD Rabbi Wayne Dosick, San Diego, CA Rabbi William Dreskin, Greenburgh, NY Rabbi Renee Edelman, South Orange, NJ Rabbi Amy Eilberg St. Paul, MN Rabbi Bruce Elder, Highland Park, IL Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell, Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein, Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Daniel Fellman, East Brunswick, NJ Rabbi Brian Field, Denver CO Rabbi Daniel Fink, Boise, ID Rabbi Reuven Firestone, Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Adam D. Fisher, Stony Brook, NY Rabbi Alan Flam, Barrington, RI Rabbi Nancy Flam, Northampton, MA Rabbi Ellen Flax, New York, NY Rabbi Robert Frazin, Hollywood, FL Rabbi Michael Friedland, South Bend. IN Rabbi Joan S. Friedman, Wooster, OH Rabbi Marsha Friedman, Elkins Park, PA Rabbi Ronne Friedman, Brookline, MA Rabbi Stacy Friedman, San Rafael, CA Rabbi Randy Fleisher St. Louis, MO Rabbi Serena Fujita, Lewisburg, PA Rabbi Jack S. Gabriel, Sonoma, CA Rabbi Ruth Gais Summit, NJ Rabbi Hillel Gamoran, Seattle, WA Rabbi Robert T. Gan, Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Rachel Gartner, Montclair, NJ. Rabbi Ruth Gelfarb, New York, NY Rabbi Jonathan Gerard, Easton, PA Rabbi Kim Geringer, Short Hills, New Jersey Rabbi Gary Gerson, Oak Park, IL Rabbi Gordon Gladstone, Bayonne NJ Rabbi Miriyam Glazer, Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Steve Glazer, Herndon, VA Rabbi Mark Glickman, Woodinville, WA Rabbi Arnie Gluck, Skillman, NJ Rabbi Shai Gluskin, Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Rosalind Gold, Reston, VA Rabbi Gerald A. Goldman, Holyoke, MA Rabbi James Stone Goodman, St. Louis, MO Rabbi Joseph Goldman, Denver, CO Rabbi Andrea Goldstein, St Louis, MO Rabbi Jerrold Goldstein, Sherman Oaks, CA Rabbi Jeffrey W. Goldwasser, Williamstown, MA Rabbi Linda Henry Goodman, Garden City, NY Rabbi Stephen Goodman, Garden City, NY Rabbi Donald Goor, Tarzana, CA Rabbi Seth William Goren, Washington, DC Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater, Pasadena, CA Rabbi Alan Greenbaum, Grass Valley, CA Rabbi C. Michelle Greenberg, Northfield, IL Rabbi David Greenspoon, Baltimore, MD Rabbi Suzanne Griffel, Chicago, IL Rabbi Daniel Gropper, Rye, NY Rabbi Arthur Gross-Schaefer, Santa Barbara, CA Rabbi Susan Grossman, Columbia, MD Rabbi Joshua Gutoff, Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Debra Hachen, Demarest, NJ Rabbi Shoshana Hantman, Katonah, NY Rabbi Maurice Harris, Eugene, OR Rabbi Robert Harris, White Plains, NY Rabbi Alan Henkin, Northridge, CA Rabbi Jeffrey Hoffman, White Plains, NY Rabbi Elliot Holin, Elkins Park, PA Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, New Haven, CT Rabbi Linda Holtzman, Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Margaret Holub, Mendecino, CA Rabbi Abie Ingber, Cincinnati, OH Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs, Woodland Hills, CA Rabbi Devorah Jacobson, Amherst, MA Rabbi Howard L. Jaffe, Lexington, MA Rabbi Jennifer Jaech, Peekskill NY Rabbi Rebecca Joseph, New York, NY Rabbi Bruce Kadden, Tacoma, WA Rabbi Amy Kalmanofsky, New York, NY Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky, New York, NY Rabbi Ben Kamin, Del Mar, CA Rabbi Debra Newman Kamin, Highland Park, IL Rabbi Susan Kanoff, Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Ken Kanter, Cincinnati, OH Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann, Palo Alto, CA Rabbi Henry Jay Karp, Davenport, IA Rabbi Mario Karpuj, Sandy Springs, GA Rabbi Nancy Kasten, Dallas, TX Rabbi Jim Kaufman, Valley Village, CA Rabbi David Kay, Orlando, Florida Rabbi Benjamin G. Kelsen, Teaneck, NJ Rabbi Jimmy Kessler, Galveston, TX Rabbi Ralph P. Kingsley, Aventura, FL Rabbi Andrew Klein, Barrington, RI Rabbi Jason Klein, Baltimore, MD Rabbi Jonathan Klein Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Lori Klein, Capitola, CA Rabbi Myriam Klotz, Bala Cynwyd, PA Rabbi Norman Koch, New Milford, CT Rabbi Debora Kohn, Berkeley, CA Rabbi Stephanie D. Kolin, Boston, MA Rabbi Neil E Kominsky, Brookline, MA Rabbi Sandford Kopnick, Cincinnati, OH Rabbi Ira Korinow, Haverhill, MA Rabbi Allen Krause, Mission Viejo, CA Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, San Francisco, CA Rabbi Noa Kushner, San Anselmo, CA Rabbi Steven Kushner, Montclair, NJ Rabbi Harold Kudan, Glencoe, IL Rabbi Judith Kummer, Roslindale, MA Rabbi Gail Labovitz, Los Angeles Rabbi Susan Laemmle, Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Lynne Landsberg, Washington, DC Rabbi Shira Lander Baltimore, MD Rabbi Michael Adam Latz, Seattle, WA Rabbi Alan LaPayover, Philadelphia, PA Rabbi William Lebeau, New York, NY Rabbi Morton Leifman, New York, NY Rabbi Michael Lerner, San Francisco, CA Rabbi Carol Levithan, New York, NY Rabbi Charles S. Levi, Deerfield, IL Rabbi Joel Levine, Palm Beach Gardens, FL Rabbi Yael Levy, Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Valerie Lieber, Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Rebecca Lillian, Chicago, Illinois Rabbi John A. Linder, Phoenix, AZ Rabbi Steven Lowenstein, Glencoe, IL Rabbi Jonathan Malamy, White Plains, NY Rabbi Jonathan Z. Maltzman, North Bethesda, MD Rabbi Howard Mandell, Virginia Beach, VA Rabbi Janet Marder, Palo Alto, CA Rabbi Jeffrey M. Marker, Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Susan Marks, Sarasota, FL Rabbi Simeon Maslin, Philadelphia, PA Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon, New York, NY Rabbi Dennis N. Math, New York, NY Rabbi Gary Mazo, Marstons Mills, MA Rabbi Bernard Mehlman, Brookline, MA Rabbi Jim Michaels, Rockville, MD Rabbi Shira Milgrom, White Plains,NY Rabbi Bennett Miller, Monroe Township, NJ Rabbi Joshua Minkin, Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Victor Mirelman, River Forest, IL Rabbi Michael A. Monson, West Orange, NJ Rabbi Leon A. Morris, New York, NY Rabbi Jay Henry Moses, New York, NY Rabbi Anat Moskowitz, Denver, CO Rabbi Dan Moskovitz, Tarzana, CA Rabbi Shelly Moss, Sun City, AZ Rabbi Robin Nafshi, Lebanon, NJ Rabbi Perry Netter Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Avi S. Olitzky, St. Louis Park, MN Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky, New York, NY Rabbi Shaul Osadchey, Houston, TX Rabbi Melinda Panken, Manalapan, NJ Rabbi Julie Pelc, Venice, California Rabbi Daniel Plotkin, St. Louis, MO Rabbi Dan Polish, Poughkeepsie, NY Rabbi Jeffrey Portman, Iowa City, IA Rabbi Linda Potemken, Wynnewood, PA Rabbi Amber Powers, Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Dan Rabishaw, Northbrook, IL Rabbi Bruce Raff, Woodland Hills, CA Rabbi Avram I. Reisner, Baltimore, MD Rabbi Michael Remson, Kenosha, WI Rabbi Dorothy A. Richman, Berkeley, CA Rabbi Yair Robinson, Holland, PA Rabbi Liz Rolle, Stamford, CT Rabbi Norman Roman, West Bloomfield, MI Rabbi Jack Romberg, Tallahassee, FL Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose, Creve Coeur, MO Rabbi David Rosenn, New York, NY Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, New York, NY Rabbi Donald B. Rossoff, Morristown, NJ Rabbi Dennis S. Ross, Worcester, MA Rabbi Gloria Rubin, Oakland, NJ Rabbi Sarah Niebuhr Rubin, Keene, NH Rabbi JB Sacks-Rosen, Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Selig Salkowitz, Fair Lawn, NJ Rabbi Joanna Samuels, New York, NY Rabbi David Sandmel, Chicago, IL Rabbi Marty Scharf, Scottsdale, AZ Rabbi Phil Schechter, Stamford CT Rabbi Leonard A. Schoolman, New York, NY Rabbi Bob Schreibman, Lincolnshire, IL Rabbi Barry Schwartz, Cherry Hill, NJ Rabbi Allen Secher, Whitefish, MA Rabbi Ron Segal, Atlanta, GA Rabbi Allen Selis, St. Louis, MO Rabbi Gerry Serotta, Chevy Chase, MD Rabbi Ike Serotta, Deerfield, IL Rabbi Mark Dov Shapiro, Longmeadow, MA Rabbi Mark S. Shapiro, Glenview, IL Rabbi Richard J. Shapiro Port Washington, NY Rabbi Roxanne Shapiro, Milwaukee, WI Rabbi Leonard Sharzer, New York, NY Rabbi John Sherwood, Oxnard, CA Rabbi Howard Siegel, Houston, TX Rabbi Howard Singer, Hinsdale, MA Rabbi Jonathan Singer, Seattle, WA Rabbi Suzanne Singer, Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Eric J. Siroka, South Bend, IN Rabbi Eleanor Smith, Evanston, IL Rabbi David Sofian, Dayton, OH Rabbi Ruth Sohn, Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Myra Soifer, Reno, NV Rabbi Felicia L. Sol, New York, NY Rabbi Rav Soloff, Lansdale, PA