The Rabbi Who Went To Church

Ari Goldman writes in The Jewish Week:

What bothers me is how ready the Orthodox rabbinate, apparently frightened of its right-wing constituency, was to criticize one of its own. But there was also a matter of decency here. Couldn’t the rabbis see how much Obama had done over a long campaign to allay their concerns?

While polls show that 78 percent of Jews voted for Obama, the ones least supportive were the Orthodox. It began with persistent rumors that Obama was a Muslim. No matter how the Obama campaign tried to silence this untruth, it persisted in e-mails that bounced back and forth throughout the community. Obama is a Christian, Orthodox Jews were assured again and again.

Once they accepted his Christian bona fides, they questioned his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his “God damn America” philosophy. Obama publicly split with Wright and resigned from his church. Once things quieted down on the home front, many Orthodox Jews began to fret about Israel. And, sure enough, the day after he clinched the Democratic nomination, Obama went to an AIPAC event and affirmed his support for Israel and for an undivided Jerusalem under Israeli control. A month later, Obama journeyed to Israel and stood in solidarity with the people of Sderot, saying that on a very personal level he understood Israel’s need to defend itself.

To my mind, a gesture of recognition, if not gratitude, from Orthodox Jews was in order, even if it meant that a rabbi had to step into a church. How would it have looked if the Reform and Conservative representatives had showed up and the Orthodox had boycotted?

Of course, Jewish law should not change to accommodate political needs. But a reflexive “no” is not always the right answer. There are times when Jewish law can accommodate special situations.


About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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