Richard Schifter is not a gifted orator.
The former U.S. representative to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, who served during the 1980s, delivered the keynote address of what was billed as the Durban II Counter-Conference Program at Fordham University Law School here on Monday, and his presentation was lengthy, dry and delivered in a near monotone.
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
has always been out front in using new technologies to tell the story of what happened to the Jews in World War II. And it has for several years been a leader in trying to focus world attention on the continuing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, in the belief that one important way to honor the slaughtered Jews of the Holocaust is to prevent genocide in today’s world.
In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the story: at every year’s policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, leaders of the group read out the names of all the congressional, administration and diplomatic officials attending. Reporters keep count, hometown delegations cheer for their representatives and the message has the subtlety of a good sock in the jaw: this is a lobby with real clout.
For years, Rabbi Jack Moline – leader of a synagogue in suburban Washington – argued that the Conservative movement needed a stronger, more visible Washington presence, like the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs, both of which are active players in the capital.
Why does there seem to be much less buzz than usual about this year’s AIPAC policy conference, which begins on Sunday at the Washington Convention Center?
Don’t get me wrong; nobody doubts the policy conference will be the most spectacular Jewish political event of the year, as usual, or that Monday’s banquet will pull in throngs of lawmakers and other top politicians that other organizations can only dream of. But chatter about the conference has been surprisingly thin this year.
Here’s a stunner: Jewish Democrats think President Barack Obama has done a great job during his first 100 days in office and Jewish Republicans disagree. Some Jews on the left say the new administration has become too centrist for their liking, but centrist Jewish groups that focus heavily on domestic matters couldn’t be happier.
Wednesday, March 25th, 2009
James Besser in Washington
There was plenty of Mideast news this week, starting with the dramatic decision by Labor Party leader Ehud Barak (this Barak v. Barack business is going to hard on journalists who trust their spell checkers) to join a new government led by Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu. But you’d never know it by listening to President Barack Obama’s prime-time press conference last night.
A new poll by J Street, the pro-peace process political action committee and lobby, contained good news for President Barack Obama, worrisome signs for incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some predictably bad news for Jewish organizations facing an unprecedented economic crisis.