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Rabbis for Obama

Jacques Berlinerblau of Georgetown makes an interesting case against the “rabbis for Obama” initiative. It is good for Obama, he says (John made a similar assertion), but not so much for the rabbis and–more importantly–the Jewish people. “Insofar as American Jews overwhelmingly favor separation of Church and State”, he writes, “this initiative marks a sharp break from existing views held by both clergy and laity”:

[T]here is a world of difference between clergy supporting a candidate and clergy supporting a policy. Perhaps the rabbis should have pointed solely to issues that concern them and correlated these issues to arguments in the ongoing debate that is (or should be) the Jewish intellectual tradition. Their hearers could then draw their own conclusions about what to do November 4th.

Even here I would urge caution. For the Jewish intellectual tradition famously evinces a deep suspicion regarding political engagement. At the beginning of the Pirkei Avot tractate of the Mishna we come across the well known adage “Love work. Hate authority. Don’t get friendly with the government.” Shortly thereafter we read: “Be careful with the government, for they befriend a person only for their own needs. They appear to be friends when it is beneficial to them, but they do not stand by a person at the time of his distress.”



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