The last time Mordechai Gafni was in the news was two years ago, when the charismatic and controversial rabbi accused of sexual misconduct here and in Israel was dismissed as the rebbe of Bayit Chadash, a spiritual renewal community in Tel Aviv.
Faced with sexual abuse complaints filed with the police in Israel by several women who were former students or employees of Bayit Chadash, Gafni came to the U.S., issued a public statement apologizing to those he had hurt, said he was “sick” and needed treatment, and disappeared.
Sen. Barack Obama’s Jewish campaign operation is getting more organized in New York, as evidenced by a mass meeting at the 92nd Street Y on Tuesday. The meeting kicked off the campaign’s Jewish Community Leadrship Committee here.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s spirited defense of Barack Obama before a Jewish organization in Florida this week leads to the obvious questions about whether he’s positioning for a veep nomination, trying to stay politically relevant, simply speaking his conscience, or some combination of the above.
AIPAC’s ability to lure top politicians to its annual policy conference is widely accepted as a measure of the group’s undiminished clout. By that standard, this week’s conference of the pro-Israel lobby giant — which begins today - suggests that the federal prosecution of two former employees and continuing attacks from the Walt-Mearsheimer axis were mere blips, not major crises.
Sen. John McCain’s decision to reject the endorsements of Pastors John Hagee and Rod Parsley (see this week’s Jewish Week story here) could bolster support from centrist swing voters - including some Jews who are inclined to vote Republican but remain concerned about the influence of the religious right on the Republican Party.
Why is Sen. Barack Obama devoting so much time and energy trying to win over Jewish voters?
On the surface, the numbers don’t add up. A majority of Jews are going to vote Democratic in November’s presidential contest no matter what; does the difference between 61 percent (what Obama scored in a recent Gallup Poll and 74 percent (what John Kerry actually won in 2004) really make that much of a difference?
Is the Bush administration worried that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s new troubles will stall their effort to make significant progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations before January?
Don’t count on it. While most analysts in Washington believe the new corruption investigation means Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are effectively on hold for the foreseeable future, that may not be at odds with administration goals.