Jewish Outreach, Obama Style

Monday's meeting with 16 Jewish leaders signals a new style of outreach

Wed, 07/15/2009

President Barak ObamaAdministrations sometimes say they’re just seeking input when their goals are more pragmatic, starting with the periodic need to head off potential confrontations with a powerful, highly reactive constituent group.

That said, such meetings serve an important purpose for our community and for national leaders who have learned to take both our ideas and our political clout seriously. 

They provide a conduit for input on a wide range of issues, starting  with but not limited to Israel.

Administrations of both parties recognize that the Jewish community, an active, organized and informed voting bloc, can be an important ally; no administration wants it as an adversary.

President Obama appears to be continuing and broadening the tradition of outreach. 

On Monday he met with a group of 16 Jewish leaders representing most points on the Jewish political spectrum.

By most accounts there was a lively, respectful and potentially useful give and take. Concerns by some about the perception the administration is asking much more of Israel than of the Palestinians and the Arab states were heard and will hopefully be addressed; the president’s commitment to Israel’s security and to the “unbreakable” U.S.-Israel bond was understood and appreciated by the Jewish leaders.

President Obama did not agree with the argument by some that public expressions of impatience with the government in Jerusalem can only undercut support for strong U.S. peace efforts among the Israeli public, but he agreed he and his Middle East team need to do more to address Israeli concerns — as they have been working to address Arab and Muslim concerns.

President Obama’s penchant for listening to divergent points of view will serve him well with a Jewish community that may be united on some core issues, such as support for Israel, but which is an exemplar of diversity when it comes to the details.

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