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.
Orthodox Jews represent an estimated 10 percent to 11 percent of the American Jewish population. They also represent the fastest growing segment of the American Jewish community and overwhelmingly vote for Republican presidential candidates. They still often vote for Democratic House and Senate candidates.
That wasn’t always the case. Orthodox Jews used to be more open to Democratic candidates.
With demographic estimates and that history in mind, Democrats hope to persuade Orthodox Jews to vote Democratic again – or at least remain open to the possibility.
“It at times might seem like an oxymoron – Orthodox Jews in the Democratic Party,” said Jeff Wice, an activist involved in the National Jewish Democratic Council. He moderated a panel discussion Wednesday at the organization’s Washington conference on what Democrats can do to reach out to Orthodox voters.
“Will this group be the Log Cabin Democrats?” he joked in a reference to Log Cabin Republicans, the gay rights group that is often at the fringe’s of its party’s politics.
Panelists, including Rabbi Menachem Genack of the Orthodox Union, pollster Mark Mellman, and Rabbi Yeruchim Silber of the Metropolitan Jewish Health System, predicted that Democrats have a good case to make to Orthodox voters. But they predicted it will be no quick fix.
Silber said not much can probably be done in the remaining 40 or so days until the election. He called for Democrats to create a permanent Orthodox coordinator to build relationships for the 2012 presidential election and beyond.
“Bring them back home to the party they felt comfortable in,” he said.
They may have their work cut out for them. The panel discussion drew an audience of fewer than 30 people. At least one-fifth of those in attendance were reporters or NJDC staff.
Rosh Hashanah is more than a week away, but Barack Obama drew upon the High Holy Days themes of renewal and rededication in a conference call with more than 900 rabbis.
“I know that for rabbis this is the busiest time of the year as you prepare for the High Holy Days,” the Democratic presidential candidate told the rabbis on Thursday, according to a statement his campaign provided.
“So I am grateful for a few minutes of your time. I extend my New Years greetings to you and to your congregations and communities. I want to wish everybody a Shana Tovah and I hope that you will convey my wishes to all of those you pray and celebrate with this Rosh Hashanah,” Obama said. “The Jewish New Year is unlike the new years of any other cultures. In part because it’s not simply a time for revelry; it’s a time for what might be called determined rejoicing. A time to put your affairs with other people in order so you can honestly turn to God. A time to recommit to the serious work of tikkun olam―of mending the world.”
Obama was introduced on the call by Rabbi Sam Gordon of Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette, Ill. and Rabbi Eliott Dorf, vice-chair of the Conservative Movements Committee on Jewish Law and Standards and Professor at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. The two are involved in the new Rabbis for Obama group.
It took only three weeks, but finally PM Olmert’s office responded to the Orthodox Union’s letter voicing the group’s concern over talk about dividing Jerusalem.
Olmert’s letter promises that the “issue of Jerusalem is currently not under negotiations with the Palestinians” and that in any future settlement, the PM will “strengthen the Jewish character of Jerusalem.”
The letter made OU even more worried, especially the use of the term “currently” in describing the status of Jerusalem negotiations. In response, the group put out a statement calling on Olmert to “be more explicit”