February 1, 2008

Published February 01, 2008, issue of February 01, 2008.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Barack Obama Is A Friend of Israel

Despite the ringing endorsement of Senator Barack Obama by Jewish colleagues in the Congress and ardent Jewish supporters in his home state of Illinois, the rumor mill does not stop churning out the spurious accusation that the presidential candidate is no friend of Israel (“Internal Memo Takes On Obama’s Mideast Approach,” January 23). The character assassins could not care less about accuracy; their aim is to sow doubt through insidious appeals to voters’ sensitivities — and for Jews, this means Israel.

Last month, an internal memorandum written by a staffer at the American Jewish Committee, of which I am honorary president, was leaked to the Forward. The memorandum claims that Obama had called on Israel “to take risks for peace.”

If true — and the staffer did not cite sources — these are the exact words used by President Bush when he visited Israel last month. They are also the same words repeated by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before, during and since Bush’s visit.

The staffer’s allegation that Obama has changed course in his views on Iran are equally vacuous. Listen to his words: “The world must work to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy. And while we should take no option, including military action, off the table, sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions should be our primary means to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.”

As far as I know, none of the presidential candidates, Republican or Democrat, is saying anything different.

Obama’s position on Hamas, which the AJCommittee staffer also questions without any reference to statements by the senator, has been equally strong: “We must maintain the isolation of Hamas. To end the isolation, Hamas must first recognize Israel’s right to exist; renounce the use of violence; and abide by past agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

Here, again, Obama is in step with Israel’s leadership. None of Israel’s supporters is saying anything different.

The AJCommittee has since apologized to the Obama campaign for “any inaccuracies that the memorandum might have contained,” explaining that it was prepared “on a tight deadline immediately after the Iowa caucuses.”

Let there be no mistake: Obama is a friend of Israel. Everything he has said and done in his private life and in a decade of public service confirms his deep commitment to the security and well being of the Jewish state.

Alfred Moses
Honorary President
American Jewish Committee
Washington, D.C.

Hungarian Hasidim Are What They Are

Arts & Culture writer Allan Nadler does Forward readers a disservice by using questionable genealogy to reinforce what can only be described as unbridled contempt for Spinka, and by extension, Hungarian Hasidim (“Righteous Indignation: How Are We To Understand the Alleged Spinka Scandal?”, January 25).

Without a shred of evidence, Nadler asserts that Hungarian Hasidim are responsible for the vast majority of Hasidic money laundering scandals. Whether or not this is true, it might be due less to the decline of the creative era of early Hasidism than to the depredations visited upon Polish Jewry in the Holocaust. Surely Nadler is aware that most contemporary Hasidim are Hungarians because the Final Solution reached that country much later than Poland.

In other words, the answer cannot “be found mainly in a failure of historical and theological evolution among these groups.” The question itself was barely more than an assertion based on a gut feeling. The answer to this question might just be that there are more Hungarian Hasidim.

This, as Nadler puts it, “failure of historical and theological evolution”— which assumes that Hasidim should have evolved a certain way — is dated to Rabbi Israel of Rizhin. Whether or not the 19th-century fault lines between Rizhin and its detractors are still relevant today, taking one side in that old dispute smacks of chauvinism and compromises the historian’s role of objectively telling us what happened.

History turned out the way it did and even an entirely unremarkable historian should know to conjecture as to the why and to the how. Nadler does not get a do-over — the Hungarian Hasidim are what they are, no matter how he wishes they would have evolved.

Joshua Harrison
New York, N.Y.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.