One of the most remarkable, profound and vitriolic disagreements going on these days is taking place among members of the American Jewish community. The 44th President, Barak Obama is loved and admired by many Jews who share his humanistic values and is simultaneously being demonized by many Jews the world over are convinced that this soft spoken, tolerant intellectual cannot be trusted when it comes to the security of the State of Israel.
How can it be that some Jewish people consider this President to be one of the “best friends Israel has ever had in the White House” while other Jews are quite sure that the first African-American President with the Muslim sounding name is a duplicitous, untrustworthy scoundrel who has time and again, “thrown Israel under the bus?”
How can the differences in perception be so extreme? It’s really not all that hard to figure out if you are not blinded by provincialism, tribalism and prejudice. One of President Obama’s greatest strengths is his humanity: Unlike many, he will not degenerate and simply write-off entire nations, ethnic group and religions because of previous disagreements and confrontations between “our tribe” and “theirs.” Barak Obama’s inclusive, non-confrontational style is nothing less than the pretentious facade of a duplicitous scoundrel who should be patronizing and indulging the fears and prejudices of the white folks who “allowed him” to be their President.
(reprinted from Rabbis for Obama)
A president of values and vision
Rabbis Steven Bob, Sam Gordon, Burt Visotzky/JNS in Opinion, U.S.
This election season, we are seeing more of the same. Yet the trick for our community and congregations is to decipher who really means it. It is to judge our political figures not by how well they can pronounce certain Hebrew terms, but how effectively they act on our shared values.
By this standard, there is no contest: President Barack Obama is the candidate who best represents our Jewish values. He is a leader of vision and integrity. His record reflects the embodiment of our deepest obligations: tikkun olam, tzedakah, shalom—to repair the world, to pursue justice, to seek peace.
When the president spoke to the Union for Reform Judaism late last year, he offered an unexpected d’var torah on that week’s parsha, delivering a powerful meditation on the term “hineini—“Here I am.”
As he made clear in those remarks, his words are not meant as hollow promises; they reflect tangible actions. As he has done throughout his first-term in office, on the priorities important to American Jews, President Obama answers: “Here I am.”
The president has been there to advance a vision of responsibility and compassion at home, in our neighborhoods, in our cities and in our communities. With health care reform, his efforts have helped us to heal the sick and lift up the weary; to live up to the call that says, “when we save one life, we save the world.”
With a focus on higher standards, better teachers and more resources in our schools, his policies put education front and center—a recognition of the rabbinic reminder that children are truly building blocks of our future and that students increase peace in the world.
With support for clean energy, higher fuel efficiency, and environmental protection, his actions reflect our duty to protect God’s creation and preserve a cleaner planet from generation to generation, l’dor v’dor.
With financial reform, investments in jobs, and assistance to the less fortunate, the President adheres to the words we recently read in the Torah: to “open wide your hand to your brother [and sister], to the needy and to the poor, in your land.”
In all these areas, and more, President Obama’s accomplishments and commitment help us work toward tikkun olam and tzedakah.
And on yet another core value, shalom, the president has earned our trust and support—because he knows full well that the pursuit of a lasting peace for Israel is contingent on the safety and security of the Jewish state. His achievements for Israel are second to none.
Under this Obama administration, Israel has received record levels of security aid. Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge has been restored and strengthened. And Israel’s families in Sderot and Ashkelon and Be’er Sheva are now protected from rocket attacks, thanks to President Obama’s investment in the Iron Dome system.
As Iran’s leaders pledge a world without Israel, President Obama has made it his promise plain and clear: We must not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. That’s why he worked with Congress to impose hard-hitting sanctions against Iran that are already dramatically affecting the Iranian economy. That’s why he built a global coalition to enhance our sanctions and isolate the Iranian regime. And that’s why he has promised to take no options off the table to counter the threat of a nuclear Iran—including military action. And as we’ve seen time and again, this president means what he says.
When no one would stand for Israel at the United Nations, the President has taken up the cause; he has said, “here I am.” When the Carmel fire threatened to spread and risk even more Israeli lives, the President ensured that Israel got everything it needed to halt the flames; he said, again, “here I am.” And when six Israelis were under siege by a mob at their embassy in Cairo, and no one in Egypt would take Israel’s calls, the President intervened to secure their safe passage home; in Israel’s time of need, he said, once more, “here I am.”
This is the character of President Obama—always there, prepared to carry the banner of our values, ready to move forward for peace, for justice, and for a better world.
As it is written in the Book of Proverbs, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Luckily for our community and our country, our president is a man of vision and strong character, integrity and faith. His values are Jewish values. They’re American values. We need his values in the White House for four more years.
Rabbis Steven Bob, Sam Gordon and Burt Visotzky are the three co-chairs of “Rabbis for Obama.”