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Barack’s Brave Stand Against Anti-Semitism

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.

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posted February 28, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Thank you, Rabbi Grossman, for this forthright post, and for the Jerusalem Post link.
I very much agree with your appraisal of Obama’s call for rebuilding the bridges between the African American and Jewish communities. I know from my own research that, even before his election to the Senate, Obama publicly acknowledged the great contributions made by American Jews to the civil rights movement in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.
More broadly: Obama is a negotiator, a conciliator. He has shown the ability to go across “party lines” and find solutions to problems, not by assembling “50 percent plus one” as is the current Oval Office style, but by working with different points of view to find answers that most of the people involved can endorse and live with. This, I believe, is the critical skill that our next President must have, for our country and for Israel. It is clear to me that neither Clinton nor McCain come close to Obama in this. It is time for us — Americans of all persuasions, Israelis, Palestinians, and all the rest — to find a way to work together and live together in peace. The alternative is the unthinkable.

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posted February 28, 2008 at 7:21 pm

1/ A substantial percentage of Wexler’s Florida Jewish constituents have Alzheimers or other form of dementia so he has an excuse to talk silly. Besides why couldn’t he get an interview with Ha’Aretz who’s views are much closer to his own?
2/ Speaking out against anti-semitism in the US is bravery? Come on.
3/ Doesn’t cautioning people not to read certain emails make it more likely that they will be read?
4/ Where is the evidence that Obama ‘stood up for a different perspective within his congregation’?
5/ I looked through the 613 mitzvot and couldn’t find the one that mentioned being pro-choice on abortion. Maybe I read too quickly.
In any event those branches of Judaism (eg the ultra-Orthodox) who are the least pro-choice on abortion seem to be having the most babies. Can’t figure out why.

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posted February 29, 2008 at 4:38 am

Good points. I wasn’t too surprised that Obama stands up for his own values and beliefs seperate from his pastors. I’m realizing more and more each day how little people know about the United Church of Christ. I guess I’m somewhat familiar with it because there is a gay-friendly church in Oklahoma called Church of the Open Arms that is affiliated with the UCC and in Dallas the Cathedral of Hope is also affiliated with the UCC. Add to that the fact that I’ve met some many nice folks on the internet from the UCC and overtime what has occurred is me getting a real sense about the denomination itself. The denomination encourages members to think for themselves. It kind of reminds me of some of the Jewish synagogues I’ve visited. Before I go too far it’s important to point out that I’m a Hindu, but I have lots of friends from different religions. At those synagogues I often found the rabbi engaging in discussions with the congregation and how this person would have one perspective and another would have a different perspective and yet they were still unified together. The UCC is a lot like that. Members have their own perspectives and are encouraged to explore their spirituality while at the same time coming together as a community to help one another and share thoughts and perspectives while also coming together to help their city/town that they live in, etc. One of the themes they had (they might still have) was the G-d is still speaking campaign and they used the symbol of the “,”. When I found out that Obama was a member of a UCC church that gave me a lot of insight about him. Though not too much as the UCC is a branch of congregationalist Christianity and as such that means that each congregation can be different. I’ve met members of UCC churches that were conservative and members that were liberal and others that were sort of midway. Their approaches were a bit different and yet, a lot like the synagogues of my friends that I visited with them, the people come together with a sense of unity (despite the differences). For the record I do know that Hillary Clinton is United Methodist, John McCain is Baptist, and Mike Huckabee is Southern Baptist (I looked it up…just like I did their birthdates, middle names, and other information about them both personal and political….I like to be informed when people talk about the candidates and really the religion issue came up several times in January once people began really paying attention. It seems I got asked many times by people what religion this candidate was or that candidate…and so that’s why I began looking up this information since I guess I must just look like the type of person who would know it…not sure. A friend of mine said it’s because I have a nice personality and so they don’t feel threatened to ask me a question that they might not ask other people, after she pointed out, many people like to stop and talk to me about their life, etc. As she noted one day while we standing in line at the grocery store and several of the people around us were talking to me about their kids, their pets, where they used to go to school, etc..she said “there must be something about you that is nonthreatening because it seems everytime I go with you someplace everyone feels the need to share personal information with you.”)
And you know until the other night when Obama spoke about the anti-semitism in the African American community I guess I was really unaware of it. Perhaps it’s just because most of the people I spend my time around are very open minded and accepting of others regardless of race, ethicity, nationality, religion, sexuality, etc. So the debate did make me aware of something that I hadn’t known before, though I do believe my friend Chavala had mentioned it once that there was some issues between the community. This campaign season seems to have brought a lot of issues forward that so often time go unnoticed and I’ll admit that they are issues that I guess I wasn’t aware of (like the animosity towards Mormons, for example. Having Mormon friends myself I guess I never realized that the larger Christian community has unfavorable views of Mormons…and that even nonChristians in American society also have unfavorable views as well).

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posted February 29, 2008 at 11:08 am

Farrakhan was raised by Black people in a Black community! not BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA!!! He is NOT a Black American!!! He is an African/Caucasian American. Raised in Hawaii, Indonesia, Kansas & Africa. You can’t go into a Black American community & find others of this Ethnicity. Not Even Oprah! Black(African American) took on the title of African Americans because we are Descendants of Africa. The majority of us have no idea of which tribe/region or ethnicity of African people we are. We just know we are Descendants.Oprah did not know until she had her DNA alledgedly searched for ties to which ethnics she was apart of. BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA IS NOT!!! a descendant of Africa. He is a True Blooded African with a Caucasian lineage of which he probably also knows. He was not raised by Black(african descendant)Americans in a Black community. He can only speak for himself & others who are like him. Usually when White Missionaries create an African baby with an African Woman or Man, that baby is left in Africa. The African woman is shunned & spurned by her tribe. Outcasted! But the African man is still a man.I think Obama is the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing. The one in which the Bible speaks of. USA’s downfall!!!

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posted February 29, 2008 at 11:18 am

Dear Dave:
“A substantial percentage of Wexler’s Florida Jewish constituents have Alzheimers or other form of dementia so he has an excuse to talk silly.” Do you have some actual statistics to back that up? I doubt that — and without some statistics, defaming these good people is despicable. And, even if it were true, your conclusion from that “fact” is a non sequitur. If there is any “silly” talk here, it’s coming from you.
And if you had bothered to actually read the JPost piece Rabbi Grossman linked, you’d have seen that it was a very direct, point-by-point response to an earlier JPost article that had collected and repeated many of the commonly-circulated lies about Obama.
Please, Dave, the time for old-fashioned smear politics is over, and it has no place here. And mocking old people as you have — it is against every understanding of Judaism that I have ever had.

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posted February 29, 2008 at 11:55 am

1/ It is no more mocking old people for having a tendency to dementia than it is to mock babies for having a tendency to gurgling.
2/ Wexler’s congressional district contains Deerfield Beach, Boca, West Palm Beach, etc. This is not a district with a very heavy Jewish seniors population? Come on.
3/ Point by point?
a/ Wexler doesn’t explain why Obama continued and continues to be a member of a congregation who’s leader he allegedly strongly disagrees with. If I strongly disagreed with the leader of my congregation it wouldn’t be my congregation for very long.
b/ Wexler lists a group of anti-Israel people he says are not Obama’s advisers on the mid-East-but he doesn’t mention any pro-israel people who are his advisers on the mid-East.
c/ Wexler doesn’t explain why Obama is the only major candidate who wants to talk with the holocaust denier in Teheran who vows to remove Israel from the pages of history. Chamberlain talked with Hitler and Churchill did not. Who was right?
Maybe there is only a tiny chance that Obama is a Muslim faking Christianity. But there is no chance that Clinton or McCain are. Why take that risk?

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posted February 29, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Obama would be a disaster for Israel. At the AIPAC convention last year, I heard Obama talk about “cycle of violence” in reference to the Israel. As we all know, “cycle of violence” is a term used to disparage Israel’s attempts to stop the Palestinians’ constant warfare and terrorism directed at Israeli citizens. The term applies that Israel’s justified self defense is as bad as the Palestinians’ constant terrorist acts against innocent Israeli men, women and children. Obama also told his Jewish AIPAC audience that the only problem was that they were lacking “hope” in the prospects for peace with the Palestinians. The opposite is of course true. “Hopeful” Jews have made one foolish concession after another to terrorists bent on Israel’s destruction. These concessions have led to more terrorism by the Palestinians as they use their newly-granted territory as launching pads for rockets and other terrorist acts, and have considerably weakened Israel’s prospects for survival. Obama either has no understanding of reality – or deliberately favors policies that will further endanger Israel. Obama’s refusal to reject Farakhan’s endorsement altogether (not just Farakhan’s anti-semitic views) also does not bode well.

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Lisamarie Rollins

posted February 29, 2008 at 1:03 pm

Everybody’s hands are dirty and blood soaked – Jews, Christians and Muslims, all in the “Name of God or Allah” We had better get it together soon or it really won’t make difference what your faith and/or heritage is.
As far as Obama not rejecting Farakhan, there are many radical and dangerous Jewish and Christian leaders who have not been rejected by their fellow jews and christians (in fact, some are quite fondly embraced, but that’s a whole other subject….)
Lastly,”Obama is not a black man from the black community….”Obama maybe a Muslim faking a Christian….” Please!! For once can we look and/or elect someone based on their character and decency as a human being, you know, what Martin Luther King, Jr. preach…oh wait a minute, he was “black and a christian” Forget It!!!

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Al Eastman

posted February 29, 2008 at 2:14 pm

With all due respect, Rabbi Grossman, why is United States Senator “BRAVE” when he/she speaks out against ANY form of discriminatory behavior? Is it your learned opinion that Senator Obama faced personal danger for his comments inside a Baptist Church? Your undisguised philo-Obamaism has become quite clear and plain for all to see in this entry.
I am somewhat in agreement with Dave’s above post with respect to Obama’s advisers. Please look very carefully at this man in his entirety, not just his looks and empty rhetoric. I think SNL got it right.

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David Pearlberg

posted February 29, 2008 at 2:29 pm

This letter was Printed by JTA (Global News Service of the Jewish People)
Published: 01/22/2008
The following is the text of a letter issued by officials at nine Jewish organizations, condemning the anti-Barack Obama e-mails that falsely portray him as a radical Muslim.
An Open Letter to the Jewish Community:
As leaders of the Jewish community, none of whose organizations
will endorse or oppose any candidate for President, we feel compelled to speak out against certain rhetoric and tactics in the current campaign that we find particularly abhorrent. Of particular concern, over the past several weeks, many in our community have received hateful emails that use falsehood and innuendo to mischaracterize Senator Barack Obama’s religious beliefs and who he is as a person.
These tactics attempt to drive a wedge between our community and a presidential candidate based on despicable and false attacks and innuendo based on religion. We reject these efforts to manipulate members of our community into supporting or opposing candidates.
Attempts of this sort to mislead and inflame voters should not be part of our political discourse and should be rebuffed by all who believe in our democracy. Jewish voters, like all voters, should support whichever candidate they believe would make the best president. We urge everyone to make that decision based on the factual records of these candidates, and nothing less.
William Daroff, Vice President, United Jewish Communities
Nathan J. Diament, Director, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
Abraham Foxman, National Director, Anti-Defamation League
Richard S. Gordon, President, American Jewish Congress
David Harris, Executive Director, American Jewish Committee
Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Phyllis Snyder, President, National Council of Jewish Women
Hadar Susskind, Washington Director, Jewish Council for Public Affairs

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Lymon Smith

posted February 29, 2008 at 3:20 pm

As an African American, I know of very few African Americans who are anti-semitic. Most of us are on the side of the oppressed. It dosen’t matter if the oppressed are the Palestinians or black Sudanees, nor does the the religion or race of the oppressor matter. African Americans know what it is like to be oppressed and exploited and we tend to side with those who have simular experience.

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Scott R.

posted February 29, 2008 at 6:15 pm

Dave likes to mock people to get his point across.
Today it is the elderly. What a mensch.
And yet – one day maybe Dave will be wearing a diaper, sitting in a wheelchair and drooling…with no one to visit him.
You get what you give.

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posted March 1, 2008 at 11:09 pm

1/ ‘You get what you give’, ‘Yes we Can!’, ‘Change you can believe in’
After reading slogans and cliches there is real life.
2/ I never heard of the ‘Jewish Council for Public Affairs’, but I’m guessing that in spite of its name it has nothing to do with the Clintons.
3/ Hier and Foxman are idiots who need support from LA’s Democrat Jews to stay alive.
4/ The RAC’s positions and the Democratic Pary’s positions are one and the same, making a mockery of their claim not to support or oppose any candidate. Same with the NCJW. (I notice there’s no mention of Pioneer Women)
5/ United Jewish Communities is just the central office of local fundraising organisations. So they need funds, and this is what they need to do.

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posted March 2, 2008 at 3:11 pm

Dear Dave:
You have trashed the elderly (again), the representatives of the ADL and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and more.
You have made it very, very clear that you are so far removed from the mainstream of American Judaism that your credibility, to any reasonable person, should be non-existent.

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posted March 2, 2008 at 9:37 pm

1/ No one has contradicted a single fact I’ve stated, so my credibility must be in grave doubt.
2/ As to whether or not I am in the ‘mainstream of American Judaism’ (as if that mattered), I note that Obama lost NY, NJ, CA, and specifically the Jewish votes there too in exit polls to Clinton. (I could also mention he lost FL but that wasn’t contested).
3/ Do you know the first name of Edward Said’s widow? Find out at
along with pictures of Obama gazing in wonderment at Said’s brilliance. And keep on saying to yourself how pro-Israel Obama is.

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