Close to 700 rabbis and other Jewish communal officials were briefed by a top White House aide on President Obama’s Syria plans.
The call Tuesday with Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, was organized by the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center and the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly and attracted 691 callers from all religious streams, according to Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the RA’s executive vice president.
There had a been demand among rabbis for such a call, she said, because of the urgency the White House has attached to getting its Syria message out, particularly to the Jewish community. She said that rabbis were eager to be briefed on Syria so they could better discuss the issue in their Yom Kippur sermons.
President Obama has advocated a limited strike on Syria to degrade its chemical weapons capability after an Aug. 21 attack allegedly carried out by the Assad regime that has been said to have killed over 1,400 people, including hundreds of children. On Tuesday, Obama said he would consider a Russian deal that would avert a strike by placing Syria’s weapons under international supervision and destroying them.
Rabbis on the call pressed Rhodes on the moral underpinnings of striking Syria, distinctions between responses to the use of conventional weapons on civilians as opposed to chemical weapons, what the administration’s endgame in Syria was, and on how its Syria considerations affected its relationship with Israel.