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McCain and Obama Warm Up for High Holy Days

Los Angeles — As Barack Obama and John McCain prepare for their first joint appearance at a Southern California mega-church August 16, both candidates will make a joint appearance of a different kind before the Jews of Southern California.

Obama and McCain are both contributing to “Jewels of Elul,” a collection of 29 short essays that correspond with the 29 days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which leads up to the Jewish High Holy Days. The booklet, which is being released by a Los Angeles Jewish musician for the fourth year, is designed to provide daily inspiration from a wide range of artists, politicians, community leaders and thinkers.

This is the first year that the booklet — and corresponding Web site, where people can read a new entry each day — has included the likes of two presidential candidates.

Craig Taubman, creator of the popular musical Sabbath service known as “Friday Night Live,” conceived of the idea four years ago, after he was commissioned to compose a song set to Psalm 27. That particular psalm, is recited in the month prior to and during the 10-day period known as the Days of Awe. Taubman said that he came up with the “Jewels of Elul” booklet as a way to help Jews prepare for the holidays.

Past political figures who have contributed to the booklet include L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has close ties to the Jewish community, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In June, Taubman reached out to Obama to ask if he would contribute to this year’s collection, which focuses on the theme of “dreamers and their dreams.” When Obama’s camp agreed, Taubman said, several of his staff members suggested that he might want to include McCain, as well.

The resulting essays — which, like all the entries, are only a few paragraphs long — are personal takes on the respective candidates’ dream of becoming president. “What’s nice is that there’s nothing political about this,” Taubman said. “It addresses the presidency and the campaign as personal.”

Taubman declined to reveal any details of either of the candidates’ contributions. He did, however, say that one candidate directly addresses the Jewish people and the other does not. Free copies of the booklet — 100,000, funded by the Stefan Adelipour for Life Foundation — will be distributed to synagogues and Jewish organizations across America.

Other contributors to this year’s “Jewels of Elul” include philanthropist Lynn Schusterman and Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation SKG and one of Obama’s top Hollywood supporters.

Representatives for the candidates did not respond to requests for comment.

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