If you thought the issue of school vouchers for parents whose kids attend private and parochial schools would fade away now that the Democrats control both the White House and Congress, guess again.
Last week President Obama announced a proposal that would allow a controversial Washington, DC voucher program that has divided Jewish groups to keep its funding for now but not provide money for new students.
AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, sure is sensitive about claims by some that it is tilted to the political right – a persistent image that could prove political awkward now that there’s a new administration in Washington that wants to move forward quickly on Israeli-Palestinian peace.
President Obama is getting pounded by the religious right for not holding a “National Day of Prayer” event at the White House tomorrow, but he is getting support from a key Orthodox group.
In his Institute for Public Affairs Blog, OU public policy director Nathan Diament reviews the history of the event, which began in 1952 and which “has been marked in various ways by all presidents since then.”
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.
It’s been a good week for Jewish groups active on the domestic front.
On Wednesday the House passed by a 249-175 vote a hate crimes bill Jewish groups have had as a legislative priority for more than a decade. For the past eight years former President Bush promised to veto it, but the strong Democratic majorities in both Houses and a new president who supports the measure have dramatically improved its chances, and backers are moving quickly to take advantage of the altered political landscape.
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.
You can’t blame Jewish Democrats for being jubilant; not only has Sen. Arlen Specter’s defection to their side of the aisle dealt a major blow to Republican efforts to slow down President Obama’s legislative agenda, but it represented another symbolic swipe at a Republican PR effort that continues to insist the party is making big inroads with Jewish voters.
When it comes to Darfur demonstrations, Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is a recidivist.
On Monday Saperstein was arrested in a protest at the Sudanese embassy just down the street from RAC headquarters, along with several members of Congress and a former official of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.
You have to give this to major Jewish groups like the Anti-Defamation League: they’re persistent. A bunch of them have been lobbying for a major new hate crimes bill for more than a decade, and even though it has passed numerous votes in both Houses of Congress the measure never quite makes it into law.
It seems that Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is worried that the U.S. can’t be trusted.
“In the past 29 years, different U.S. administrations have opposed the people of Iran,” he said on Sunday. In fact succeeding American presidents have gone out of their way to say their beef is with the rulers of Iran, not the citizens.