President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign on Aug. 21 announced a new initiative, “Rabbis for Obama,” consisting of more than 600 rabbis—among them Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists and a rabbi who dialogued with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—who state their support for the incumbent.
Obama’s list of rabbinical supporters includes Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb of the Jewish Renewal movement—who in September of 2008 spoke at a New York interfaith dialogue event featuring Ahmadinejad. The same year, Gottlieb was also among the first American rabbis to visit Iran since the country’s 1979 revolution.
“By promoting and showcasing Rabbi Gottlieb as one of Pres. Obama’s supporters, the Obama campaign lends legitimacy and credibility to a rabbi whose extreme views are well beyond the mainstream of the Jewish community and the mainstream of America,” the Republican Jewish Coalition said in a press release.
Gottlieb is also an advisory board member of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a pro-BDS group. Eight of JVP’s 35 rabbinical council members are on the “Rabbis for Obama” list.
JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson responded to criticism of Gottlieb’s inclusion on the list by noting that on her trip to Iran, Gottlieb “had the chutzpah to castigate President Ahmadinejad for his shameful Holocaust denial and comments about Israel disappearing from history in a room of 350 people including, presumably, armed guards.”
Ira Forman, the Jewish Outreach Director for Obama, said when “Rabbis for Obama” was announced that the rabbis’ “ringing endorsement of President Obama speaks volumes about the President’s deep commitment to the security of the state of Israel.” The Emergency Committee for Israel, however, countered that the nature of Obama’s list invalidated Forman’s statement.
“Far from demonstrating a ‘deep commitment to the security of the state of Israel,’ these figures have demonstrated a deep hostility to the state of Israel and a deep commitment to demonizing the Jewish state and undermining the U.S.-Israel alliance,” ECI Founder Bill Kristol wrote in a letter to Obama.