After not only supporting John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, but criticizing the Democratic presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman is fighting for his job as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. And Democrats must decide whether they want him to caucus with them.
While they have enough votes to remain in the majority regardless of Lieberman, they still need the senator from Connecticut because they’re shy of the 60 votes needed to cut of filibusters.
Lieberman has told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that he does not want to relinquish his chairmanship, which plenty of Democrats want to take away from him as punishment.
Lieberman was re-elected as an Independent after losing the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont, but continued caucusing with Democrats.
Now comes word that Lieberman may have some influential party leaders want Lieberman to keep caucusing with Democrats.
Talking Point Memo’s Josh Marshall reports that former President Bill Clinton is making calls on Lieberman’s behalf, and The Huffington Post reports that President-elect Barack Obama, who Lieberman campaigned against, also wants him to remain in the caucus.
The Pennsylvania Republican State Party has fired a strategist over an e-mail sent to Jewish voters that warns a vote for Barack Obama would be a “tragic mistake” with parallels to the “ignored warning signs of the 1930s and 1940s.”
The e-mail, which a GOP spokesman says was sent without the party’s authorization, falsely warns that Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee “taught members of Acorn to commit voter registration fraud” during his community organizing days.
The e-mail was signed by several prominent Pennsylvania Republicans who are supporting GOP presidential nominee John McCain. They were Sandra Schultz Newman, a former Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice; developer Mitchell L. Morgan, a top fund-raiser from the Philadelphia area for McCain as well as other Republicans including President Bush and former U.S. Sen Rick Santorum; and I. Michael Coslow, a steel industry exec.
A spokesman for the state party, Michael Barley, tells the New York Times, that state party leaders repudiated the message sent Friday and that Bryan Rudnick, the strategist who helped draft it, had been fired.
“There were some points that were accurate, there were two that we cannot substantiate, however; as a result of them we’ve let him go,” Michael Barley told The Times.
“There are points that could have been made and he touched on some of them, but he definitely went a little bit farther than the facts would support,” he said.
Democrats blasted what one Jewish Democrat calls a “blatantly false and incendiary e-mail” that was “just one more vicious smear.”
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa., and state Rep. Josh Shapiro, both of whom are leading Obama surrogates held a conference call with reporters Saturday afternoon to respond to the e-mail.
Keep reading for the full, unedited, text of the e-mail that was provided to the Forward:
It’s a little early for Barack Obama’s campaign to breath a sigh of relief and say a few Amens, but two new polls of Jewish voters offer some good news for the Democratic presidential nominee.
An analysis by Gallup based on its daily tracking poll and interviews with more than 500 Jewish voters shows that Jewish voters have grown much more comfortable with Obama.
It found that 74 percent of Jewish voters now support Obama. That’s a tad lower than what exit polls showed John Kerry and Al Gore won in 2004 and 2000, but it’s shows huge gains for Obama in the last few months.
A Quinnipiac University poll of 1,433 Florida voters shows Obama leading Republican John McCain by a 77 percent to 20 percent margin among Jewish voters included in a survey.
One note of caution in the Q-Poll numbers – the Jewish sample survey carries a whopping 10.5 percent margin of error because of the small sample of Jews in the larger survey, which had a 2.6 percent margin of error. Given their methodology, Quinnipiac pollsters, however, believe the number is probably pretty close to accurate despite the large potential margin of error.
Jewish support for Obama has risen gradually from the low 60 percent range in June and July to 66 percent in August, 69 percent in September, and now 74 percent, according to Gallup.
With just under two weeks until the Nov. 4 election, “The current proportion of U.S. Jews backing Obama is identical to the level of support the Democratic ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards received in the 2004 presidential election (74%),” and “It is only slightly lower than what Al Gore and Joe Lieberman received in 2000 (80%) – when the first Jewish American appeared on the presidential ticket of a major party,” according to Gallup.
And while there has been much concern about a generational divide and the potential of bigotry that could keep some older Jews from supporting Obama, or cause them to vote for Republican John McCain, Gallup reports that “support for Obama is a bit higher among older Jews than among Jews younger than 55.”
Republican presidential nominee John McCain plans to host a conference call with Jewish leaders across the country Sunday morning.
The so-called tele-town hall meeting with Jewish leaders, McCain’s second such call since August, will include the participation of U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman. The independent Democrat who has been campaigning for the Republican ticket in battleground states, will introduce McCain, a longtime friend.
Issues important to the Jewish community such as Israel and national security are expected to be discussed as well as the economy. Participants are expected to be able to ask questions.
The 10:30 a.m. call is expected to include representatives from groups like Chabad-Lubavitch, Agudath Israel, Orthodox Union, Young Israel, in addition to Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis, according to McCain’s campaign.
Jewish leaders representing groups under the umbrella of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations will also participate.
The call will allow Senator McCain to have a dialogue with Jewish leaders and discuss issues critical to the Jewish community such as Israel, national security and the economy. In traditional town-hall fashion, there will be a question-and-answer session with Senator McCain.
McCain held a similar call with Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis from 47 states in late August.
Representatives of the Republican Jewish Coalition and National Jewish Democratic Council usually spend much of their time trading charges, accusing each other of smears and other assorted provocations.
So it was perhaps a little surprising, to say the least, to see the partisan groups come together for tonight’s final presidential debate between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain at Hoftsra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
The cause of this detente, which we understand to be completely temporary, is a debate watch party at Washington Hebrew Congregation jointly sponsored by RJC and NJDC.
The behind the scenes story, we’re told, is far less noble than bipartisan accord and world peace. Rather, it boils down to the synagogue tax status and the desire for such an event to be non-partisan.
Oh, well. For those interested $10 will get you two beers, unlimited sodas, snacks and one can only assume some awkward moments.
Campaigning as a “Democrat who was re-elected as independent now here to support a Republican for president,” U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman told Jewish voters in southeastern Pennsylvania that he remains convinced that Republican John McCain is the best candidate to lead the country even as the focus of the election has shifted from national security to financial security.
“All days but particularly now country matters more than party, that’s the bottom line,” Lieberman told about 50 Jewish voters at Temple Beth Hillel in Wynnewood Friday morning.
He later spoke to about 70 retirees at B’rith Shalom House in Philadelphia and then about 120 mostly politically conservative Jews at Congregation Shaare Shamayim.
While mostly receptive audiences, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee faced skeptical and sometimes outwardly hostile questioning about McCain’s selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.
Lieberman responded that the election is about deciding whether Barack Obama or McCain will be president. Based on his own interactions with Palin and others he’s spoken with, Lieberman described her as a pragmatic and realistic leader who understands everybody does not share all of her ideological views. Lieberman, for one, said he disagrees with many of her social views.
Ohio’s Jewish community is getting lots of love from presidential surrogates this Columbus Day weekend.
U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the independent Connecticut Democrat and 2000 vice presidential nominee, is meeting with Jewish communal leaders over breakfast this morning outside of Cleveland to emphasize his belief that Republican John McCain is the bettered prepared candidate to be president.
Lieberman addressed about 200 McCain volunteers at a campaign call center northeast of Cleveland on Sunday.
Not far away at the Landerhaven banquet hall, which Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher called the epicenter of Ohio Jewish politics and at least for a short while the presidential campaign, former Middle East peace negotiator Dennis Ross was joined by Sen. Carl Levin, Rep. Jane Harman and Alan Solow, a prominent member of Chicago’s Jewish community, to reassure Jewish voters that Democrat Barack Obama is a strong friend of Israel and the Jewish community.
While Ross, Levin and Harman emphasized Obama’s commitment and understanding of the importance of Israel and nominating good candidates to the Supreme Court, it was Solow, chairman of Jewish Community Centers Association of North America but the least known of the group, who offered the best line of the night: “I like to say he’s going to be the first Jewish president of the United States.”
Solow, who met Obama in 2003 and traveled with the Illinois senator to Israel in 2006, said that Obama “gets (Israel) in his bones. He has it in his kishkes,” he said, using the Yiddish word for guts.
U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, returns to Pennsylvania Friday to plug Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin in the Jewish community.
Here’s his itinerary:
Temple Beth Hillel at 10 a.m. 1001 Remington Rd. Wynnewood, PA 19096
B’rith Shalom House at 11:15 a.m. 3939 Conshohocken Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19131
Congregation Shaare Shamayim at 1:45 p.m. 9768 Verree Road Philadelphia, PA 19096
After the debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs and Fox’s Sean Hannity played the guilt by association game.
Gibbs asked the Fox host whether he was anti-Semitic for having Andy Martin on his show.
Republicans will garner more support from the Jewish community than at any time since the Great Depression – surpassing the 39 percent of the Jewish vote that Ronald Reagan won in 1980, U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., is predicting.
The 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee who was on Republican John McCain’s shortlist for this year’s GOP ticket, made the prediction during a recent rally with Republican candidates in suburban Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent reports.
“I’ll introduce you to some Jewish women,” offered Suzanne Kurtz, spokeswoman for the Republican Jewish Coalition.
It wasn’t exactly the typical sales pitch to attend a political event and there was no official matchmaker, yet it proved effective.
A joint vice presidential debate-watching party that RJC’s National Women’s Committee co-hosted with the Republican womens’ groups RightNOW! and Women Impacting the Nation (WIN) drew a crowd of a couple hundred Republicans including many Republican Jews to cheer Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and jeer Sen. Joseph Biden to a downtown Washington law firm.
The event attracted a crowd of mostly young women, but also a large number of men, who not surprisingly gave Palin stellar reviews for her debate performance.
“Sarah Palin is going to kick some tuckus,” Shelley Hymes, a member of all three organizations predicted during a reception prior to the debate.
Hymes was not disappointed in the Republican vice presidential nominee’s performance.
“I thought she was amazing,” she said immediately after the 90-minute debate ended. “She surpassed expectations.”
Thursday night’s event was one of a number of events planned by RJC’s women’s committee since GOP nominee John McCain selected Palin as his running mate.
Though analysts say Palin’s selection may scare off some Jews concerned about her lack of foreign policy experience, it’s been a boon to the women’s group.
“For groups like mine, this is an unprecedented time,” said Lisa Spies, the group’s executive director. Spies said she’s receiving 20 to 30 e-mails a day compared to three to four a week pre-Palin.
The group is planning other watch parties for upcoming debates and election night, but no major fundraising push is planned to take advantage of the enthusiasm.
“Right now I’m just excited to get people participating, to have people excited,” Spies said.
Like many Republicans, Jews and non-Jews, in the audience, Michael Berenhaus, an optometrist in nearby Bethesda, Md., worried before the debate about about how Palin would perform because of several shaky recent interviews with Katie Couric on CBS News and Charles Gibson of ABC News. So, he was relieved when she took strong and unwavering positions, and particularly her staunch support for Israel during the debate.
“I was nervous, but deep down I knew she could do it,” said Berenhaus, who added that “The difference between her and Democrats is she’s not going to change how she feels about Israel the next day when the Arabs protest.”
The National Jewish Democratic Council did not host a similar vice presidential debate watch party. But a spokesman said that the group doesn’t need to use promises of dating opportunities to lure guests to its events.
Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida – all key traditional presidential battlegrounds and all traditional battlegrounds for the Jewish vote will likely be critical once again in this year’s contest between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.
Two other states to watch though will be Virginia, where 1.3 percent of the population is Jewish, and Colorado, where 1.7 percent of the population is Jewish, Matt Berger of MSNBC/National Journal predicted on a conference call organized by the United Jewish Communities to discuss the election.
Critical to the election will be what Berger called the “Lieberman Democrats,” those voters like Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, who place a premium on security issues. They may be wary of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s lack of experience, he said.
Younger Jewish voters, who are trending conservative in their votes and more open to supporting Republicans, are another critical demographic.
Finally, “Schlepers,” the elderly vote in Florida will be critical as usual in that state, Berger said. Many of these traditionally Democratic voters supported President Bush in 2004 and are looking for a reason to vote for Obama. Yet they remain hesitant to support him.
“They want a reason to vote Democratic and they are wary about Obama,” Berger said. “They need to be convinced that it is OK to vote Obama.” Jewish Democratic leaders have predicted that Obama will do as well or better than 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry did. But Berger was skeptical that Obama will draw the 75 percent of Jewish support that exit polls showed voted for Kerry.
If the Northminster Church that the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy leads in Monroe, La. were to endorse a presidential candidate, the decision would cause a deep and irreparable rift within the Baptist congregation.
Instead of being known for their religious denomination or community works, churches, synagogues and mosques like Northminster would become Red, Blue and divided just like many other institutions where politics has been allowed to invade.
“If we allow partisan politics in houses of worship, you would see a reconfiguration of religion in the landscape of America,” said Gaddy, the president of the Interfaith Alliance. “We would see houses of worship identified not based on denomination but based on the candidates they endorsed over the years.”
“It hurts the nature of religion and the nation in that way, plus it robs individuals and families of the basic resource for understanding helpfulness, therapy, encouragement, nurture unaffected by partisan political divisions,” Gaddy told the Forward.
It’s too soon to tell what the impact will be of Sunday’s “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” organized by the Alliance Defense Fund to challenge the Internal Revenue Service’s rules prohibiting political endorsements from the pulpit. The effort drew the participation of 33 pastors in more than 20 states.
The conservative group based in Arizona promised to release the names of churches and pastors participating before Sunday, but changed its tune late last week. A spokesman, citing concerns about potential protests and interruptions, said names of participants would not be released ahead of time after some names leaked. ADF still hadn’t released a list as of Monday afternoon.
Some clergy offered explicit endorsements, while others were more subtle, according to reports.
Here’s the Wall Street Journal wrap up after visiting several churches. A pastor in Minnesota endorsed John McCain. Meanwhile, the L.A. Times reports that The Rev. Wiley S. Drake urged parishioners to vote for him and Independent candidate Alan Keyes.
Democrat Barack Obama enjoys a nearly 2-1 advantage among Jewish voters over Republican John McCain, yet his support continues to lag well-behind historical levels that Democrats have enjoyed from the Jewish community, according to a new survey of Jewish voters.
The American Jewish Committee’s 2008 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion shows Obama leading McCain 57 percent to 30 percent. Another 13 percent of the 914 self-identifying Jewish respondents surveyed said they were undecided. Exit polls showed that John Kerry received 76 percent of the Jewish vote in 2004.
The poll is the latest evidence that Obama continues to struggle winning over Jewish voters despite the optimism expressed by campaign aides and members of the National Jewish Democratic Council at the organization’s Washington conference this week.
The telephone survey by Synovate was conducted by Sept. 8-21. It has a 3 percent margin of error.
Nearly three quarters of those surveyed approved of Obama’s selection of Delaware Senator Joseph Biden as his running mate. Fifty-four percent of respondents disapproved of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain’s choice for vice president.
Democrats have viewed the Palin selection as good news because they say many Jewish voters are turned off by her lack of foreign policy credentials and lack of prior statements about Israel.
More than half of those surveyed – 54 percent – said they want to hear the candidates talk more about the economy. Only 3 percent cites Israel as the issue they want to hear discussed more.
By overwhelming margins, respondents predicted Democrats would do a better job addressing terrorism, strengthening the economy, supporting Israel, working towards energy independence, and the Iraq war.
Friday night’s first presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain is still on. But it comes after sunset, posing a problem for observant Jews, who won’t be able to watch it.
Obama wants the television networks to re-air the debate, which will focus on foreign policy issues, on Saturday night.
He sent the following letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates:
The Honorable Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. The Honorable Paul G. Kirk, Jr. Commission on Presidential Debates 1200 New Hampshire Ave NW Washington, DC 20036
Dear Mr. Fahrenkopf and Mr. Kirk:
Joe Biden and I are looking forward to participating in the upcoming debates, and I appreciate the hard work you and your team have put forth to bring them about. They promise to be some of the best opportunities for the voters to assess the candidates and their views prior to Election Day.
I want to raise one issue, and ask for your assistance. Due to the schedule set by the Commission and presented to the campaigns, the first debate falls on Friday night after the Jewish Sabbath has begun. Unfortunately, that means many Jewish Americans will not have the opportunity to watch the debate live. Because I know there is strong interest in this debate in the Jewish community, and to be as inclusive as possible, I ask for the Commission’s help in encouraging the television networks covering the debate to rebroadcast it on Saturday night after the Sabbath has concluded.
Jewish voters unsure whether to cast their vote for Barack Obama or John McCain, might want to think about this little bit of advice U.S. Representative Alcee Hastings offered about Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate:
“If Sarah Palin isn’t enough of a reason for you to get over whatever your problem is with Barack Obama, then you damn well had better pay attention,” the Florida congressman said during a National Jewish Democratic Council panel.
“Anybody toting guns and stripping moose don’t care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks. So, you just think this through,” Hastings said.
Congressman Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., later told the same group that Jesus was “a great Democrat,” according to CNN.
The Republican Jewish Coalition, which has been accused of its own share of gross distortions, is denouncing Hastings’ comments as “the worst kind of politics.”
“Hastings’ unconscionable remarks do nothing but sow seeds of fear and divide people,” said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks in a statement. “There should be no place in our country for this sort of political discourse. We can constructively disagree on the issues without denigrating others.”
He also said Cohen’s remark “inappropriate, offensive and should be repudiated.”
The RJC recycles quotes from Hillary Rodham Clinton (March 2008), John Kerry (April 2004) and Chuck Schumer (November 2003).
But what’s sure to elicit an interesting responses at the NJDC conference is a quote by NJDC Executive Director Ira Forman.
“I have to take my hat off to [McCain] for putting principle in front of politics… I wish there were more John McCains,” Forman is quoted as saying.
Of course, RJC had to go way back to an Oct. 1, 1999 JTA story to find such a kind comment.
We couldn’t find the story RJC cites. Forman has characterized the GOP ad campaign as a bunch of smears.
RJC responded to a request for additional information noting that “It’s a JTA story.” But a spokesperson has not provided a copy of the story yet.
UPDATE: Forman says he doesn’t remember the quote, which he’s been informed came in the context of praising McCain for urging that Patrick Buchanan be kicked out of the Republican Party for his fringe views.
The important thing, according to Forman, is that “the four people that are quoted there, me, Hillary, Kerry and Schumer, we all agree on one thing – John McCain is not the best person for president. Barack Obama is the best.”
Forman did say that he still wishes there were more John McCains. Of course, it came in the context of his noting that “the [John McCain] who exists today bears no resemblance to the one from 1999.”
Forman also enjoyed the irony of the latest RJC ad highlighting his praise of McCain for criticizing Buchanan. Less than a week ago, RJC released an ad that highlighted Buchanan’s comments as it sought to draw a connection with Obama.
Here are the rest of the quotes:
After the invitation for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, to speak at next week’s “Stop Iran” rally in New York was rescinded, the blame game began.
The Republican Jewish Coalition joined with the McCain campaign to blame Democratic partisanship for Palin’s removal, which they say hands victory to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Democrats, including Ira Forman of the National Jewish Democratic Council countered that the inappropriate invitation to Palin had turned what was supposed to be a non-partisan event into a campaign rally organized by a leading Jewish organization.
“Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad has been quite clear of his intentions to acquire nuclear weapons; his anti-Semitic rants and desire to annihilate Israel are well-known,” RJC executive director Matt Brooks said in a statement. “Today Senators Obama and Biden and their supporters have handed Ahmadenijad a big win. What should have been a strong effort by the Jewish community to stand up and show the world that we are united in our fight against this madman has instead been hijacked by those with a political agenda. This is a very sad day for the Jewish community.”
Brooks said he was also disappointed that neither Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama nor his running mate, Joseph Biden, chose to participate in the rally. But neither Obama or Biden were invited, which was one of the central complaints of their campaign.
Forman told reporters on a conference call Thursday afternoon that it was wrong for rally organizers to invite only one party to the non-partisan event.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton backed out of the rally earlier in the week after learning of the Palin invitation. Clinton expected a comparable congressional Republican representative would share the stage with her, but didn’t expect to be paired up with the GOP vice presidential candidate at such an event, Forman told reporters on a conference call.
U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, spoke by phone with the leadership of AIPAC this afternoon.
According to Jewish leaders and campaign officials, Biden and AIPAC leaders had “a warm conversation” that lasted about 20 minutes.
Biden, who was introduced by AIPAC President David Victor, spoke of his long relationship with the organization that extends back to the 1970s. He also spoke of his longstanding support of Israel.
“It was an opportunity to call and talk about some of the issues they’ve worked on in the past and some of the issues they can continue to work on,” said a campaign official.
The conference call was one of a number that Biden has conducted in recent days with the leaderships of various influential organizations.
Alaska Gov. **Sarah Palin*, the Republican vice presidential candidate, met with AIPAC leaders for about 45 minutes during the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul earlier this month.
Biden and presidential nominees Barack Obama and John McCain have no meetings scheduled with AIPAC leaders, though the organization signaled it would be delighted if the candidates’ schedules permitted for such a gathering.
AIPAC issued the following statement after the Biden conference call:
“We had a very warm conversation with Senator Biden today, as we have many times throughout the years, about the importance of the U.S-Israel relationship, and we look forward to continuing to work with him in the future. We had an opportunity to express our appreciation for his strong leadership in support of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and we were pleased to hear Senator Biden reaffirm his desire to maintain his close relationship with AIPAC as we work together to strengthen the special friendship between the two democracies over many years to come.
“Senator Biden is a strong supporter of Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship, and has longstanding, close ties to AIPAC and the pro-Israel community. Throughout his career in the Senate, he has been a staunch supporter of U.S. aid to Israel, a leader in the fight against Palestinian terrorism, a vocal advocate for the special relationship between the two democracies, and he shares our goal of stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Joe Biden has been to Israel numerous times and has gotten to know many of Israel’s most important leaders, starting with Golda Meir.
“Now that both the Democrats and the Republicans have determined their respective tickets, AIPAC is pleased that the parties have selected four pro-Israel candidates. In so doing, they have reaffirmed the broad bi-partisan support that exists in our country for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.
Update “Sen. Biden expressed his appreciation for AIPAC’s important work supporting Israel’s security and the U.S.-Israel relationship, and that he looks forward to continuing to work with them as partners on these issues in the future as he has in the past,” said a campaign adviser.
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.