Those who closely follow the intersection of Jewish and Democratic politics know that there's been a good bit of noise -- though perhaps not much light -- surrounding whether President Barack Obama "gets" the American Jewish community. Indeed, Obama has not pleased every American Jew, much the same way that three Jews in a room would not likely agree with each other anytime soon when it comes to existential issues. But beyond domestic policies (about which the vast, overwhelming majority of this community agrees with Democratic positions on reproductive freedom, health care reform, separation of church and state, etc.) and beyond complex U.S.-Israel issues, like the ongoing negotiations concerning settlements (about which there are complex disagreements within the Jewish community), detractors of this president keep asking: does he really "get" American Jews and their concerns?
If there could have conceivably been any lingering doubt, Monday's meeting with Jewish community leaders in the White House's Roosevelt Room should put it to rest. With no notes, Obama reportedly demonstrated a broad strategic command of the details of Middle East policy that are understandably of great interest to many American Jews. He spoke eloquently about the threat posed by a nuclear Iran, and how and why this cannot come to pass; and he spoke effortlessly and earnestly about his profound and lasting commitment to the enduring security of Israel as a Jewish state, and to the need for the Palestinian Authority and surrounding Arab states to crack down on violence and incitement, according to reports. And demonstrating his understanding that American Jews view strong support for Israel as critical but not sufficient -- as Jews care deeply about a wide range of domestic policies as well -- he spoke at length about a range of other policy priorities.
During the campaign and since, this president has had more than his fair share of dirt thrown his way. And we in the Jewish community are not immune from this unfortunate preoccupation. It's fine to respectfully have policy differences, of course. But, after Monday's display of Obama's deep understanding and commitment to the priorities of the American Jewish community, let's finally take his words and actions at face value, and stop the whisper campaign. This president "gets" American Jews.
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