Commentary Magazine


Thank You for Your Bravery

Yesterday, as Rick Richman and Pete Wehner have both already noted, Barack Obama shared a conference call with 1,000 rabbis on the subject of health care. It appears the purpose of the call was to get said rabbis to opine on the need for his package in their High Holy Days sermons. Given the Jewish community’s support for the president, one would think such lobbying would be unnecessary, and given the non-Orthodox rabbinate’s general ideological disposition, Obama was surely asking his listeners to do something they would already have done unbidden.

However, according to Washington Jewish Week, the rabbis on the call actually thought for a moment of using their time with the president on a matter relating to the Jewish community and its concerns: the recent Medal of Freedom award given to Mary Robinson, the architect of the anti-Zionist Durban conference:

In the lead up to the president’s address, as the rabbis waited on hold, “there was a lot of chatter” among some participants who felt that the call should be seen as an opportunity “to instruct the President about [Presidential Medal of Freedom selection] Mary Robinson” and about the peace process in the Middle East.

“It was the subject of a good deal of conversation whether anyone was going to challenge him on that,” in particular Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the president of the Union of Reform Judaism, who has publicly chided Obama for his administration’s stance on settlements.

But then they . . . didn’t.

When the issues failed to come up during the health care call, [Rabbi Jack] Moline pithily tweeted: “Yoffie praises President and does not raise any other issue. Good for him.”

What courage! What candor! What bravery! Good for them indeed! This reminds me of the old Jackie Mason routine: “In this country, Jews don’t fight. Every Jew I know almost killed somebody. They’ll all tell you, ‘If he said one more word, he’d be DEAD today.’ What’s that word? Nobody knows what that word is.”

Oh, and as Tevi Troy notes, Obama wished the rabbis a “shanah tovah”—happy New Year—when Rosh Hashanah is almost a month away: “This is kind of like wishing someone ‘Merry Christmas’ on Thanksgiving.” No matter. They received their marching orders, and I’m sure in lockstep they will go.