Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Obama and the Jews

If you were bothered at all by Tim Russert's shameless baiting of Obama at last night's debate, I'd like to recommend this post by Ari Kelman. Ari looks at a recent speech by Obama to members of Cleveland's Jewish community on the subject of Israel. The speech contains a number of the traditional "I'm a huge friend of Israel" panders that one would expect from any politician worth his or her Kosher salt these days. But it also shows some real sensitivities and nuances that I think border on politically courageous. Case in point, Obama's description of his pastor, the one who said nice things about Farrakhan:

It is true that my Pastor, Jeremiah Wright, who will be retiring this month, is somebody who on occasion can say controversial things…He was very active in the South Africa divestment movement and you will recall that there was a tension that arose between the African American and the Jewish communities during that period when we were dealing with apartheid in South Africa, because Israel and South Africa had a relationship at that time…

But I have never heard an anti-Semitic [remark] made inside of our church. I have never heard anything that would suggest anti-Semitism on part of the Pastor. He is like an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I don’t agree with. And I suspect there are some of the people in this room who have heard relatives say some things that they don’t agree with. Including, on occasion directed at African Americans.

So the point I make is this that I understand the concerns and the sensitivities and one of my goals constantly in my public career has been to try to bridge what was a historically powerful bond between the African American and Jewish communities that has been frayed in recent years.

He hasn't been at my house during Passover, but he may as well have been.

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