The Problem with “Rabbis for Obama”

This past week a group of 300 rabbis formally announced their intention “to support Senator Obama for President.” The formation … Continued

This past week a group of 300 rabbis formally announced their intention “to support Senator Obama for President.” The formation of “Rabbis for Obama” strikes me as very good for the Democratic ticket. But not so good for Jews or, more precisely, Judaism.

As for Obama: This initiative makes perfect sense. It plays to one of his greatest strengths (and McCain’s weaknesses): his ability to “connect” with a wide variety of communities of faith.

This talent was on display this week in a conference call with no less than 900 rabbis. Well prepped by his handlers and getting into the seasonal spirit, Obama declaimed: “I know that the Shofar [a Ram's horn] is going to be blown in your synagogues over Rosh Hashanah and there are many interpretations of its significance. One that I have heard that resonates with me is rousing us from our slumber so that we recognize our responsibilities and repent for our misdeeds and set out on a better path.”

That’s vintage Obama–a virtuoso of Faith and Values politicking. He knows a little about the Shofar. He is theologically informed enough to know there is no one definitive reading of its significance. He also knows how to deploy that most good-will inducing of ecumenical pronouns: “our” (as in, “our slumber,” “our responsibilities,” “our misdeeds”).

And he probably knows something else. Namely, that maintaining amiable relations with Jewish constituencies and vowing to keep Israel safe and secure is as much a message directed to Jews as it is to Evangelicals (who are 12 times their size).

As for the Rabbis: But what is good for a politician is not necessarily good for a religious group (nor the nation in which it resides).

To begin with, the letter of support on the “Rabbis for Obama” website is puzzlingly bereft of any reference to classical Jewish texts. In constructing their case for the Senator from Illinois the signatories make passing reference to the notion of tikkun olam (i.e., the repairing of a broken world). Yet they fail to invoke in any substantive manner the Hebrew Bible, Mishna, Gemara, Midrash, Responsa literature, and so forth.

I am a secular Jew. I am a secular Jew who views the aforementioned sources as instructive, valuable, worthy of my study and respect but, ultimately, not determinative of my worldview. I don’t, however, think it’s logical or appropriate for a couple of hundred Rabbis representing Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and Orthodox denominations to reason as if they were secular Jews. I would have preferred (and expected) to see the signers–who are a learned lot, I assure you–grounding their endorsement somewhere in the vast universe of Jewish knowledge.

They could have, for example, made the case that Halakah or Jewish law does not mesh well with the idea that “life begins at conception.” Nor do ancient Jewish sources seem to privilege the safety of the fetus over that of the mother. Of course, a counter-argument can and has been made by pro-Life Jews. The latter could find support for McCain’s anti-abortion policies among the 2.5 million words of the Babylonian Talmud. Heck, they could find support for Ron Paul’s policies in the Babylonian Talmud!

In any case, there is a world of difference between clergy supporting a candidate and clergy supporting a policy. Perhaps the rabbis should have pointed solely to issues that concern them and correlated these issues to arguments in the ongoing debate that is (or should be) the Jewish intellectual tradition. Their hearers could then draw their own conclusions about what to do November 4th.

Even here I would urge caution. For the Jewish intellectual tradition famously evinces a deep suspicion regarding political engagement. At the beginning of the Pirkei Avot tractate of the Mishna we come across the well known adage “Love work. Hate authority. Don’t get friendly with the government.” Shortly thereafter we read: “Be careful with the government, for they befriend a person only for their own needs. They appear to be friends when it is beneficial to them, but they do not stand by a person at the time of his distress.”

Alternative readings about the merits of political action can certainly be gleaned from the capacious rabbinic corpus (The Ron Paul Principle of the Talmudic Interpretation, again). Yet well-known lines such as these may account for the typical reluctance of the rabbinate to engage in ventures such as “Rabbis for Obama.” Insofar as American Jews overwhelmingly favor separation of Church and State, this initiative marks a sharp break from existing views held by both clergy and laity.

To their credit the rabbis did not affix the names of their congregations to their signatures. They thus tried to speak as individuals, not communal leaders. I appreciate this gesture, but I think it does little to mitigate the politicization of their pulpits that their now public support for Obama will inevitably entail.

By Jacques Berlinerblau | 
September 18, 2008; 6:02 PM ET


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  • Anonymous

    I am an ordained pastor in a mainline Protestant tradition. In the town in which I serve my congregation, I also have been invited to share in weekly Shabbat services at the local conservative synagogue–where I benefit from being able to pray as a member of a congregation in which I am not the leader. Thank you for this well-thought article–it is instructive for me as a Christian in public minitsry as well.I am amazed that your call for deep thinking and the integrity of faith communities and their leaders receives no commets. Are the only discussions worth having in this forum those that explicitly threaten fundamentalist Christian supposed-certain truths?We might speak ecumenism and Micah 6:8 at the party, but we go home to blinders of self-interest. Would that we’d refocus on the mercy we need, rather than the glory we would assume as God’s ever-blessed American holy-warrior nation.

  • jenna

    Although I agree that religious leaders should not be endorsing candidates as a general matter, the public support of Obama by 300 rabbis is a necessary counter-weight to the slanderous emails sent to Jewish voters attacking Obama as a Muslim. It also adds more credibility to his claims to be a supporter of Israel’s security.

  • Madeleine

    With all do respect, I think you are missing the point. Anyone Jewish (secular or religious) has been receiving emails filled with lies about Sen Obama feeding into Jewish sensitivities and fears about the state of Israel. This statement of suppot by these Rabbis has been made to show that Obama clearly is not anti-Jewish, anti-semite, and/or anti-Israel. And, hopefully, that will promote a more informed and reasoned decision making process so that if a Jewish person decides not to vote for Obama, that decision will not be based on groundless accusations, lies and fear mongering rumors.

  • K.R.(Vish)Vishwanath

    I fail to understand what the good Professor is after. So, the group of Rabbis professed their support for Obama but did not * affix the names of their congregations* What then is your problem, Professor? How does it politicize their pulpits? Where is the logic? Why do you seem angry?

  • jerry rubin

    As usual you are as dumb as they come. I am a Jew and I believe that Sen. Barack is more moral then Sen. McCain, who will say anything to gain the position of president. His pick for VP is a disaster. I have been to more countries and have been to Israel during the Yom Kippur war in ’73.So, the best you can say is no abortion and kill all other arab men, women and children (they are just collateral damage).Your Lord is not coming back because my grandparents were killed by the Nazis to create an Israel state.I would call you a neanderthal but you don’t believe man existed during that time.

  • jerry rubin

    The second comment I forgot to say.Your pulpit, not the paper, speaks volumes to its congregation on who to vote for in the election.So your statement is hypocritical and you are still a neanderthal.

  • Judy Mazo

    As a secular Jew, I am very proud of the statement made by Rabbis for Obama and of the fact that the group has now grown to 900. This helps balance out the shame I feel for the fact that some Jews have been spreading hate and fear about Senator Obama. The emails and whispering campaign that call him a Muslim (as though that automatically means he’s a terrorist) and conflate him with Farrakhan are only slightly masked racism. The fact that he and his wife have been put on the defensive about their personal and professional success is disgraceful – Jews typically admire educational achievement and intellectual vigor, but somehow there seems to be an undertone of suspicion, perhaps resentment, about the Obamas’ stellar abilities.The Rabbis are right to speak out, as people who are especially qualified to address moral issues, just as economists are right to critique the candidates’ tax policies or doctors to take positions on their health reform policies, while letting the rest of us know their credentials for taking their positions. In the face of Jewish prejudice or ignorance, their credibility as Rabbis is obviously pertinent.

  • Concerned the Christian Now Liberated

    The flaws and errors of Judaism have nothing to do with politics but a lot to do with the future of Judaism.To wit:Abraham founder/father of three major religions was either the embellishment of the lives of three different men or a mythical character as was mythical Moses, the “Tablet-Man” who talked to burning bushes and made much magic in Egypt. Many of the 1.5 million Conservative Jews and many of their rabbis have relegated Abraham to the myth pile along with most if not all the OT.

  • david Salkin

    This is poorly written and badly in need of a error check.

  • Eliezer

    I hope that you feel the same way about the rabbis who publicly endorse McCain. The orthodox world happens to be full of them. I can’t figure it out, quite frankly. I am an observant (some might say orthodox) Jew and I firmly believe that given the choices that we now have to make in November, Sen. Obama by far by far by far represents what I believe in and what I believe is good for this country and for the world, including Israel. If I were a gung-ho Zionist, frankly, I would live there. I am a loyal red-blooded American, however, and I believe that what is good for my country is what I need to vote for. I also care for the environment, and believe that the Torah commands the responsible stewardship of the gifts that G-d has bestowed upon the world he has given us, which means conservation of those resources that are limited.I am not completely thrilled with Obama but given the alternative of another 4 years of Bush-ism and with Sarah Palin, no less, a heartbeat away from the presidency, all I can do this Rosh Hashana is pray to the Ruler of all Rulers that (s)He inspire the American voter to make the right decision.

  • Farnaz

    Jacques, this is truly fascinating. Did you know that former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin is currently living it up in England with much of his country’s wealth? Did you know that his brother-in-law is the third prime minister in Thailand in two weeks? Did you know that the Thai people want the pig Thaksin back in Thailand, the amoral Swiss to turn over his bank accounts? Did you know that many rabbis have been discussing this disgusting situation? That they wonder what happened to the idea that we are our brother’s keeper? After all, the Thai people aren’t Jews, not Middle Eastern Jews like me, or Askenazic Jews like you who, by definition, don’t count?Did you know that we are heading into a recession? That approximately 25% of Jewish Americans are at or near the poverty line? Any thoughts?

  • Julie McNamara

    Sorry -I’ve read your piece four times and still can’t understand just what is the “problem” with Rabbis for Obama. Considering the degree of falsified hate mail running around regarding this elected Senator, former state legislator from the great state of Illinois, and professor of law at University of Chicago, the rabbis are completely justified in expressing their views that Obama is the more pro-actively moral and compassionate candidate running for the Presidency. On McCain’s web site you can find 200 retired flag officers stating their support for his candidacy. Why not bemoan the “politicization” of the military?

  • Anon

    Bad habits and addictions are hard to break, even when there is plenty of evidence that they may be fatal. The last time there was an ultra left wing progressive running for president was in 1972. This was the same year as the Olympic massacre in Munich and just five years after the Six-Day War. In those days American Jews had no trouble with enemy identification. The only state that voted for McGovern was Massachusetts.This year we have another ultra left wing progressive running for president. It appears that some rabbis have forgotten all about the Olympic massacre and the Six-Day War. In the past, there were also Jews that willingly got on the train to Auschwitz. All aboard.

  • Michael

    Wow, a secular Jew (notice NOT affiliated with any movement at all) is “tsking” Rabbis living in the United States of America for their daring to publicly- AS INDIVIDUALS who are in the same professional career- support a candidate for President. Whew! If it weren’t so obvious he will be voting for McCain (and is trying to plant seeds of discomfort about Obama and his shallow, un-policy motivated liberal clerical supporters. Who he may add are not immune to the “cult of personality” the Right is so obsessed with trying to push.) I’d think he really thought an American needed to have his approval for how they pick a candidate. How un-American is that?

  • awg

    Interesting but really a typical academic criticism of a political gesture. Kind of like a professor of English Literature criticizing Churchill for a political policy. It’s obvious why the Rabbis did not want to ground their support in religious texts or getting into a debate about the religious texts in regard to the issue of abortion. That creates as many potential problems as it does solutions.

  • VICTORIA

    Another oddity from Berlinerblau- Not putting religious justification in a political endorsement? Israel is the issue. Far from your former attmepts to convince us that the Jewish vote is not a one issue vote- you supply the information that decries your former assertion. Or, possibly- you just figured people are too lazy to click on the link- and notice it didn’t go anywhere. Why would an atheist, dedicated to the separation of church and state- complain aobut the LACK of religious content in a political endorsement?

  • Concerned the Christian Now Liberated

    O’Victoria, O’Victoria, O’Victoria,Jacques made a typical computer error or maybe the WAPO On Faith entry personel made the mistake. The error pales in comparison to the errors of Islam.

  • Concerned the Christian Now Liberated

    Oops: Make that “personnel”

  • concerned14

    Obama- Do Your Due Diligence & You’ll Understand His Cursory Knowledge! Just as most in the mediaOr if you have, you haven’t told us!Had you done your investigation of him or read theThat relationship, however, in my opinion, does not make him any less risky or dangerous as a

  • Marion

    Textual support for disengagement from politics could be found in Christian and Muslim texts, as well as Jewish ones. Jesus’s counsel to “render unto Caesar…” is well known; less familiar are classical Islamic warnings against entanglements with corrupt authorities. In all three traditions, these attitudes are based on resignation to situations of authoritarian government that ought not to be relevant to citizens of a democracy, where political speech is not dangerous sedition but responsible participation. Although all three traditions offer valid rationales for staying well clear of politics, in a nation where Christian extremists have raised disproportionately loud voices for the last quarter-century it behooves members of less understood faiths to speak out in defense of their values. For non-Evangelicals to remain silent would, in effect, cede the high ground of “religious values” to Christian extremists.

  • jerry rubin

    Welcome to the present. Remember you have another conservative trying to win your over.His name is McCane (and that is spelled correctly – you know Cane and Abe). Or have you not read the bible?

  • candide

    Rabbis, like ministers, priests, imams and swamis are all frauds, the blind leading the blind. The Jewish people have long been betrayed by their rabbis as the other believers have by their clergymen. They should be silenced.

  • Farnaz

    Jacques,In some ways you are correct. It would have been more consistent for these rabbis to reference sacred texts in their endorsement, but than they would be going the way of the Vatican and Christian Fundies, a way that, thank God, they avoided. Consistent doesn’t mean correct. IN this case it would have meant theocratic.Jews are not Christians of course, and we do not “render unto Caesar.” We believe in fighting injustice, Tikkun Olam. We also have no centralized religious authority telling us what to do and for whom to vote. No one I know and I know a lot of Jews, atheist, Askenasik, Sfardim, etc. was even aware of this cite. NO one to whom I sent it is taking it seriously.Of course, it will, in some way arm your basic moron racist, but that doesn’t bother me. They crawl out from under their rocks, and you push them back where they came from.More relevant for us J people is that 25% of American Jews are at or near the Poverty Guideline. With the nationalization of AIG, the state of the economy, that should give us pause. Other religious philanthropies give to their own or go converting people in order to feed them.Time to take an economic lesson from the gentiles. Jewish philanthropic organizations should stop feeding American gentiles and start feeding American Jews. Charity begins at home. AT HOME. There is an issue for you Jacques, the invisible Jewish poor, who are about to get poorer.

  • Paganplace

    “They should be silenced.”Not in this America, they shouldn’t. Not while I’m here, for one, anyway.

  • Topper

    There is a difference between expressing favor for a political candidate and organizing each weekly worship for political purposes, like a lot of evangelical churches. No one can guarantee what will happen after the election, but they made a reasonable evaluation and I don’t think it hurts Judaism any more than it hurts or helps any other religious organization. Your point is not well considered.

  • Farnaz

    Aaron Meyerowitz,Of course, I will not disagree with you about The rabbis are to be commended for avoiding a theocratic stance. As for me, I would like to see some discussion of Obama’s Carterite advisers, among them that eighty-year-old dinosaur, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the Democrats’ answer to Henry Kissinger. That would be the Zbig of the Iran HOstage crisis, of the fall of Shah, of the return of Khomeini to Iran.I would have liked to see some discussion of Obama’s Carterite economic advisers, said advisers being the ones who started the deregulation, which Reagan so fully exploited.WE are voting for a president, not for the next American Idol. While I support Obama, I maintain that Americans have the intelligence to view their candidates in the round. If the rabbis want to contribute to the election process they might remind us to beware idolatry.

  • Abraham Cohen

    Re 300 rabbis for Obama. Another 300 could quickly be gotten on behalf of John McCain. And I’m one of them. So what is the point? Rabbi ADC

  • CALIFORNIAMARTY

    SMART JEWS AND ISRAELIS KNOW THAT OBAMA IS THE CONSUMMATE LIAR WHEN IT COMES TO ISRAEL-A DIVIDED JERUSALEM YES AND NO OBAMAThere are literally hundreds of churches on the South Side of Chicago that Obama could have chosen from. He selected one that was headed by Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Junior. The anti-Israel rants of this minister have been well chronicled. Among the gems: The Israelis have illegally occupied Palestinian territories for almost 40 years now. It took a divestment campaign to wake the business community up concerning the South Africa issue. Divestment has now hit the table again as a strategy to wake the business community up and to wake Americans up concerning the injustice and the racism under which the Palestinians have lived because of Zionism. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. Pastor Wright is a supporter of Louis Farrakhan (who called Judaism a “gutter religion” and depicted Jews as “bloodsuckers”) and traveled with him to visit Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi, archenemy of Israel’s and a terror supporter. Most recently, as head of the UN Security CouncilGaddafi prevented condemnation of attacks against Israel. As Kyle-Anne Shriver noted, The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan received the “Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Trumpeteer” Award at the 2007 Trumpet Gala at the United Church of Christ.

  • Anonymous

    Gasoline is expensive. I was in advance auto today and a guy came in reeking of the smell of gasoline. Three people in the store comment on it including the store manager. I was so bad that the manager was ready to ask the gut to leave.Ironically, one of the people in the store was someone that I know, haven’t seen him for a long time but it was nice to see him again. Jim said to me that gut smells like he has been rolling in gasoline, that’s when the manager said he was going to ask the guy to leave because he smelled so bad. The guy in the parking lot said his engine caught fire from a gas leak and that he poured water on it and it didn’t stop the fire, he was in a black truck, and I could recognize both of them. The guy in the truck was talking about burning his wife to death with gasoline. I told him that he would go to jail for murder and that I would be a witness to what he said. He also told me that he has hidden cameras in his house to spy on his wife with microphones and that he put a GPS system on her car so he could track her whereabouts. I told him that he will go to jail for doing these things and he laughed and said I won’t get caught. I said the very ones that think that they are above reproach are the ones that get caught. He said he didn’t care that he had people to do it for him and that they would lie for him.

  • Nora

    Palin has called upon her witch hunter aka Pastor Muthee:

  • Stan Solin

    What about separation of church and state?

  • Dwight

    can’t see how the rabbis can support obama…obama will be the cause of the destruction of Israel…obama will never fire a shot at any muslim…

  • andrea

    I am a well educated, conservatively observant Jewish woman who has always been for Obama. I strongly support Israel and have visited Israel as recently as last year. I joined Jews For Obama some time ago as a way to show that Jews would not be swayed by the lies from the Republicans(or the far right nuts who post regularly on WAPO comment boards). I am not moved by the media either-I don’t need those people to tell me how to think or to “interpret” for me what someone said or what it means.

  • william kraal

    ofcourse all rabis are for obama, they all know that mccain is a warmonger besides that he was in favor of turning our social security system over to his wallstreet buddies! and oh jezus maria if i hear maccain mention his prisoner of war status one more time im gonna puke! and how can this fool pick a vice president who does not believe in sex education at schools while her 15 yr old daughter got knocked-up even while keeping her legs crossed! and now i just read that the kids are not gonna get married!!

  • Howard

    OBAMA = BETRAYAL

  • sam

    So what we have here are 300 Capos (look up the Holocaust) who will serve their liberal masters,

  • Farnaz

    Still wondering. Who care’s if three hundred rabbis (there are many more), some of whom don’t even have congregations vote for Obama?Need I remind you, Jacques, that we don’t take political orders from clergy, that we have no centralized clergy? Now, since Jews don’t care, of course, maybe some other group does. Why they would, I don’t know, since we are a small minority. We’re not like the Christians or Catholics, much larger populations, which seem to take what their clergymen tell them to do seriously. Also, their clergymen seem to be more consistent.What about the other thousands of rabbis? Gee, is this a silly topic.

  • steve

    Is Rabbis for Obama a Mel Brooks comedy?

  • GL1

    Jack, you make it sound like the Rabbis for Obama are the only Jews making noise in the political arena. Is that true? Or in fact are there large-scale efforts to actively politicize anti-Obama fears and prejudice in the Jewish community in America and in Israel? In which case I contend that a pro-Obama response is a perfectly legitimate response from someone who cares about their religion, their country and the truth–even if they’re a rabbi. Your own essays strike me as examples of a secular academic Jew trashing a particular political candidate. If I were a rabbi, would you then instruct me to be silent? or am I allowed to challenge your truth? Do secular conservative Jews have the preeminent right to silence religious liberal Jews?

  • Bob Miller

    As usual..Seems like even religious clergy can be uninformed and fooled by smoke and mirrors.These rabbis, must not believe that Obama has been influenced by Viper Wright. I also expect that IF HE IS ELECTED that Israel will be on the rocks. Meaning he will do little if anything to support them… UNLESS it is a payment to the DEMOCRATIC ‘WEALTHY’ JEWS that supported in is buying of the election.

  • Farnaz

    “steve:Is Rabbis for Obama a Mel Brooks comedy?”Good question. These last two essays from Jacques have been weird. Maybe, he’s taking his particular job as panelist too literally, don’t know.However, your question put me in mind of something. The day we get “Priests for Obama” or “Ministers for Obama” or “Imams for Obama” I do hope to hear from Jacques.That is to say, surprise me, Jacques. Tell me something I couldn’t guess. Tell me about something that matters, like you used to.

  • Farnaz

    UNLESS it is a payment to the DEMOCRATIC ‘WEALTHY’ JEWS that supported in is buying of the election. Bob, if I were you, I’d worry more about your basic wealthy Christians and Catholics–you know, the ones from AIG, the McCains of the Commerce Committee (!), the C’s who run the Senate, Congress, Supreme Court, presidency and vice presidency.It would be those C’s I’m thinking of. You know the ones–the ones who are stealing my money to send us into a recession? Remember? Remember your born again Jimmy Carter who degegulated the airlines, your Christian Ronnie Reagan and more dereg, your Bushie Sr., and more dereg, your Clinton and more dereg, and repeal of Glass Stiegel, and then I’d remember Born Again Bushie Jr. and Born once (and that was too much) Cheney.Worry about your C’s the one’s who own the government, who lie and buy the electorate, the big C farmers, big C British Petroleum, Exxon, etc., etc., etc. Worry about them. They have too much power in this “secular” country.

  • Will Jones – Atlanta

    America is polarized between those who wish to serve Divine Providence per Our Creed and Motto “Annuit Coeptis,” and the treasonous sectarian faction which serves “Amalek” as evidenced by its finance through Prescott Bush, and the Dulles Bros. at Sullivan and Cromwell, of papal baron Fritz “The Rockefeller of Germany” Thyssen, author of “I Paid Hitler,” and the rise of Nazism: transparently a catspaw for those responsible morally, legally, and ethically for the Holocaust as proven by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s “A Moral Reckoning.” It is no coincidence that Our Whig Founders of Gentile stock regarded the same institution and families of the socio-historical political economic entity easily seen to be Amalek manifest, as “the real Anti-Christ.”No Jew does not worship, or fail to benefit from the worship of, the Creator, “Adonai,” acknowledged by Thomas Paine’s Revolution-triggering “Common Sense” as the “King of America.” Isaiah’s prophecy was accepted by both Gentile and Jew Whigs who founded the United States of America and fought and died in the American Revolution against the Old Sectarian Order of caesaropapism’s Ancien Regime – king and pope.McCain, unfaithful and conducting himself accordingly, married into the family of an Organized Crime frontman. Palin, obviously a false prophet on Big Oil’s payroll…as was Hitler…proudly espouses the same values as Adolph Hitler in her insistence that pregnancies from rape and incest be brought to full term. This is not a minor similarity, particularly when the fundamental values enshrined in our sacred documents establish individual sovereignty of the People over those whose humility and grace might lead them to be noble servants of the many in this New Secular Order guided by Reason rather than advocacy for sectarian insanity espoused by the same Sodomite and Babylonian perversion so long thirsting for righteous Jew blood.Any American rabbi who fails to support the clear, righteous and patriotic choice in the coming election…Obama…is no rabbi and no Jew. Any calling him or herself “Jew” who supports the faction which financed Hitler and the Holocaust is “Jew” in name alone.G-d is not mocked…even if the average I.Q. is 100 and the stupid, racist, and fascist are willing to cast their votes for the sectarian faction which won’t be done until the American People, once righteous and beneath only G-d, are enslaved to Satan with the rest of the world.Death for Treason

  • VICTORIA

    Astute observation GL1. An added odd development of the (potential) bailout seems to be creating a new socialized takeover of the private sector by the Bushies.

  • Anonymous

    “They could have, for example, made the case that Halakah or Jewish law does not mesh well with the idea that “life begins at conception.” Nor do ancient Jewish sources seem to privilege the safety of the fetus over that of the mother.”*********************************************Was King David a Jew? Did he happen to write Psalm 139?Is Psalm 139 part of Jewish Scripture?Have the pro-abortion Jewish Rabbis read a textbook of human embryology or ever heard of the Hippocratic Oath?

  • Anonymous

    BTW, 95% abortions are done for reasons of convenience or economics by healthy women carrying healthy fetuses/babies. The “abortion culture” chooses to deny that glaring fact.

  • Anonymous

    OK. The saving factor about Roe vs Wade is that it is not a mandate. No politician makes the decision for a woman. One important way to tackle the abortion issue is honest education of young women and men about the growth of the unborn child as explained in the textbooks of human embroyology. That should make all anti-abortion theology and philosophy redundant.

  • dcp

    Couldn’t possibly agree more with Jacques B. today. I don’t like Christian leaders taking sides, and I don’t care for other faiths doing the same as well. 300 rabbis signing a political endorsement- sounds more like the coming of the Anti-Christ to me. Eery.

  • Something is NOT Wright

    The Obama Campaign’s aggressive pursuit for a faith vote (any faith- Jewish, Xtian or Moslem) isDEEPLY DEEPLY DISTURBING…

  • Harriet Fishlow

    I believe the rabbis’ public support for Obama has two reasons.1)The policies of the Republican right, especially in regard to abortion, but not only that, are hateful, arrogant and bullying. How dare they try to impose their notion that “life begins at conception” on the rest of us by force of law?2)Republicans have mounted an ugly smear campaign (no surprise there)against Obama saying he is a Muslim and thus will, at best, abandon Israel. Jews are sensitive to The Big Lie, which as Hitler said, if said often enough and loudly enough, will be believed. Atwater and then Rove adopted this technique and the Republican party uses it.

  • jerry rubin

    Get rid of this article already.

  • ama

    Evangelical preachers have been endorsing Presidential candidates for a long time (sometimes during church services), so I don’t see a problem with a group of rabbis endorsing a candidate outside of their synagogues or temples. Religious services should be non-partisan, and their tax exemption depends on their adherence to that principle. Otherwise, religious leaders have the same 1st amendment rights as everybody else. It’s only a matter of time before we see Rabbis for McCain, Rabbis for Nader, and Rabbis for Paul.

  • Angela

    Jacques Berlinerblau,Do you ever post about anything than Obama. It’s getting tired. There are so many more important issues we can address. I’m so tired of this site prophesying about Obama.

  • David

    Correction: not one of these “rabbis” were orthodox.

  • ahad ha’amoratsim

    “the signatories make passing reference to the notion of tikkun olam (i.e., the repairing of a broken world). Yet they fail to invoke in any substantive manner the Hebrew Bible, Mishna, Gemara, Midrash, Responsa literature, and so forth.”

  • Shel Silverston

    So much for separation of Church and State.I imagine that those endorsing Obama object to his former Reverend.Too bad that so many would endorse Adolf Hitler if he ran on the democratic ticket!

  • Jeremy Sher

    Jacques, I’ve enjoyed reading your columns over the years. As a practicing Reform Jew, I found this column interesting but I certainly don’t agree. There’s a chasm between not getting too friendly with government and staying silent about what government should be. Judaism is about how people should live if it’s about anything, and I think it’s incumbent on our rabbis to teach people how we can achieve a better society. If that means endorsing a presidential candidate — as it does this year more than most — then they should endorse presidential candidates. Liberal religion has been so skittish and fearful about concocted concerns about our nonprofit status that we’ve allowed the radical right to completely take over public religious discourse. We are commanded to do better — it is unacceptable to Jews to stay silent — and I think that’s what these rabbis are doing.

  • Daniel

    I am not a secular Jew. I am an orthodox Jew who practices my faith daily. But I see nothing wrong in a group of rabbis supporting Obama without referencing the holy texts or Jewish traditional views. Sometimes what is best for the Jews does not depend on what the Jews have historically believed. You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned separation of Church and State. For me, that is a primary issue affecting my vote. As a Jew, I do not want a Vice President who began her cadidacy by talking about making America a more Christian state. I do not want to be more marginalized than I already am by the leadership of the country of my birth and citizenship. I would rather have a President who has respect for all religions, and puts none above the other in the exercise of his duties. I believe that the support these rabbis give to Obama is not a matter that needs justification from any religious source. On the contrary, it is support for the one of these two candidates that would be most likely to keep State and Religion separate, and that is unquestionably good for the Jews.September 24, 2008 10:49 AM

  • Daniel

    I am not a secular Jew. I am an orthodox Jew who practices my faith daily. But I see nothing wrong in a group of rabbis supporting Obama without referencing the holy texts or Jewish traditional views. Sometimes what is best for the Jews does not depend on what the Jews have historically believed. You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned separation of Church and State. For me, that is a primary issue affecting my vote. As a Jew, I do not want a Vice President who began her cadidacy by talking about making America a more Christian state. I do not want to be more marginalized than I already am by the leadership of the country of my birth and citizenship. I would rather have a President who has respect for all religions, and puts none above the other in the exercise of his duties. I believe that the support these rabbis give to Obama is not a matter that needs justification from any religious source. On the contrary, it is support for the one of these two candidates that would be most likely to keep State and Religion separate, and that is unquestionably good for the Jews.September 24, 2008 10:49 AM

  • Brian

    I thought Rabi’s were supposed to respect the sanctity of life?This is what Barack Obama supports, let’s take a look at the practice he wants to continue.The 5 Step Partial Birth Abortion: A. Guided by ultrasound, the abortionist grabs the baby’s leg with forceps. (Remember this is a live baby)B. The baby’s leg is pulled out into the birth canal. (The abortionist has to turn the baby around sometimes dislocating the leg)C. The abortionist delivers the baby’s entire body, except for the head.D. The abortionist jams scissors into the baby’s skull. The scissors are then opened to enlarge the hole.E. The scissors are removed and a suction catheter is inserted. The child’s brains are sucked out, causing the skull to collapse. The dead baby is then removed. God help him. My 12 year old daughter is in middle school and the school nurse can’t give her an aspirin without parental notification but she can have an abortion without parental notification. This is insane.And this is who Rabi’s support. I’m glad I believe in a resurected Savior!