You wouldn’t expect a host to say anything bad about his guest of honor. But American Council for World Jewry chairman Jack Rosen was especially gracious about the message delivered by President Obama at a fundraiser held at Rosen’s Manhattan home.
“He made, I think, a solid case for having stood with Israel on the crisis issues facing Israel, which are security cooperation and Iran,” said Rosen, a real estate developer who came to prominence as chair of the now-inactive American Jewish Congress.
Rosen, who has raised money for both Democrats and Republicans, called the Forward a couple of days after the event. He readily conceded that Obama came with hat in hand. Besides raising cash, he also wanted to send an inclusive message to Jewish leaders.
“He came because fundraising took place, but I also think he wanted to reach out and have a dialog with the Jewish community, and that was an added benefit here,” Rosen said of the November 30 event. “We had a frank discussion on the issues that mattered to the community, certainly with regard to Israel.”
Attendees questioned Obama about his relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which is perceived to be poor. “There are obviously many in the Jewish community today who feel that the president has not had as good a relationship with Israel as they would expect,” Rosen said. “The president explained this by saying he can have differences of opinion on policy and issues with another government, but when it comes to the question of the state of Israel he’s been as supportive as any president.”
Obama’s remarks are on the White House website, but comments made during a question and answer session are not.
Dinner attendees also questioned Obama about Iran. The president “was very emphatic that he could not accept a nuclear Iran,” Rosen said.
Rosen wouldn’t say how much was raised for the campaign that evening, but reports have pegged the 30-odd attendees as giving between $10,000 and $30,000 each.
Obama is the second sitting president to fundraise at Rosen’s home. Bill Clinton also visited during his term in office.
Rosen, who crossed the aisle to support George W. Bush for president in 2004, admitted to having had trouble raising money this time around from friends in the Jewish community.
He attributed that trouble, at least in part, the poor economy. “I can’t say that it wasn’t difficult getting people to contribute,” Rosen said.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.