Sen. Barack Obama has shown himself to be a strong friend of Israel, as Florida Congressman Robert Wexler makes clear in a recent Jerusalem Post article. Obama also made his position clear in the most recent debate in Cleveland this past week, reiterating he is a stalwart friend of Israel whose security he believes is sacrosanct.
What impressed me most during the debate, though, was Obama’s clear rejection and denouncement of the anti-Semitism which has found its way into the African American community, particularly in the form of Farrakhan and those who support him. Obama’s willingness to speak out against anti-Semitism in the African American community, for example, while addressing the largely African American crowd at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, is an impressive example of moral courage: the willingness to speak out about what he believes is morally right even when the message may be unpopular among those listening. That is what he is also doing with his own minister, Rev. Wright, with whom Obama has publicly disagreed. While I may have preferred he not affiliate at all with Rev. Wright, I can respect how he has determined he can have the most impact by standing up for a different perspective within his congregation, which hopefully can influence others as well.
Tuesday night Obama also called for rebuilding the historic relationship between the African American and Jewish communities, a cooperation which has suffered much tension since the last third of the 20th century. Building such bridges would not only benefit both our communities but would bode well for Obama’s ability to bring people together to address the serious issues which face our country and our world.
I agree completely with Rabbi Waxman’s condemnation of Jewish commentators and smearmeisters who draw on fear and bigotry. Of all religious communities, we should know better. And I expect our co-religionists–even when they are political pundits–to act better. I constantly caution my congregants to delete the defamatory emails about Obama that are making their way like a virus through the Jewish community, and not to believe everything they may read in the unsolicited emails they receive.
AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr told Conservative rabbis at the recent meeting of the Rabbinical Assembly in Washington that Senators Clinton, McCain, and Obama all are great friends of a safe and secure Israel and all have impeccable pro-Israel records. That means that we can look beyond this issue, which appropriately holds a critical place in our priorities, to what each candidate’s other qualifications and positions are as we make our decision for whom to vote.
On that score, as a Jewish community we should be much more concerned about Sen. McCain’s consistent and unambiguous anti-choice position on abortion and protecting the health of a mother.