Why I Signed on to “Rabbis for Obama”. And Why I May Ask to Have My Name Removed.

Over the summer, I added my name to the “Rabbis for Obama” initiative that is now receiving a fair bit of attention in the media. Here and Here among others.

My reason for doing so was quite simple. As much as I don’t like the mixture of politics and religion, I dislike the misinformation regarding the President’s support of Israel even more. Time and again, the President has been portrayed as less than supportive of Israel when, in fact, that is simply not the case. With many American Jews making Israel a determining issue when choosing who they will vote for, this has the potential to become a significant factor this fall.

Put simply, I believe the President’s support for Israel has been misrepresented, and I wanted to make that point. By adding my name to the list, I wanted to make clear that while there are key differences in the candidates’ positions, I do not believe support for Israel and the US-Israel relationship is one of them. Yes, there would likely be a significant difference in HOW that support is expressed, but I believe both would be strong in their support.

That is why I added my name to “Rabbis for Obama”. And here is why I may have to ask for my name to be removed.

Among the 600 or so rabbinic colleagues who have lent their name to “Rabbis for Obama” is Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, an outspoken critic of Israel. By itself, that is not an issue. Many of us have criticisms of some of Israel’s policies, many of us would like to see changes in the country’s handling of religious issues, and many of us would like to see the issue of Palestinian sovereignty resolved. What is problematic for me is Rabbi Gottlieb’s call (in writing and on YouTube) for a boycott of Israeli goods. That position is, I believe, ill-advised and, more importantly, irresponsible.

Unfortunately, the link between Rabbi Gottlieb’s position and Rabbis for Obama was made in a series of recent articles. Those articles created the appearance that the initiative and those signing on to it support similar thinking. In fact, one recent piece asked, “How Many of the ‘Rabbis for Obama’ Share Lynn Gottlieb’s Anti-Israel Views?” Of course, I do not share her views, nor do the colleagues listed with whom I am familiar.

Still, my name appearing alongside hers is problematic for me; even more so now, because the threat of Iran’s nuclear program continues to grow.I have, as a result, asked the organizers what, if anything, they plan to do about the inclusion of this colleague’s name. If, as is their right, they plan on keeping her listed, then I will, as is my right, ask for my name to be removed.

I would not be comfortable with anything else.

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