Jewish Journal

This week in power: Obama, Christie, New Haggadah, Top rabbis

by Danny Groner

April 5, 2012 | 6:03 am

A roundup of the most talked about political and global stories in the Jewish world this week:

Obama’s soaring
According to a Public Religion Research Institute poll of 1,004 Jewish adults, Obama is doing just fine and want to see him get reelected. “While much of the political debate within the Jewish community has centered in recent months on the issue of Israel and on President Obama’s relations with the Jewish state, the survey reinforces previous poll data that shows Jewish voters do not view Israel as a deciding factor when voting for president,” explained The Jewish Daily Forward. This might indicate something about Jewish voters. “Americans — and especially Jewish Americans — are long overdue for a serious consideration about what it means for religion to influence the values that our society should reflect,” wrote Yehuda Kurtzer in The Jewish Week. Only then we can vote rationally and confidently.

Wasserman Schultz’s questionable appointee
A Jewish outreach liaison for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is under fire fora Facebook picture Gilbert posted in 2006 of herself and her friends tagged as “Jewbags” and the “Jew cash money team.” Cue the defenses and the outrage: “The photograph’s caption is admittedly inflammatory, but it is six years old. People make mistakes when they are young. This should not be an impediment to Ms. Gilbert’s budding career today,” said Noah Rothman at Mediaite. On the other side is Javier Manjarres at Shark Tank: “Oy Veh! Can you imagine if a Republican Jewish Outreach staffer were to have posted similar pictures with these same comments? His/her head would be asked to be served on some type of Seder platter or something.” Does it really matter? You have to wonder.

Christie’s Israel trip
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is in Israel this week on a trip cosponsored by the Republican Jewish Coalition. The “Jersey to Jerusalem” tour could serve some good, though. “Christie is looking to strengthen the state’s economic ties to Israel and to bolster his political résumé with a taste of foreign policy,” reported NorthJersey.com. But some had a little fun at the governor’s expense. “Christie, wearing a yarmulke with his name and title embroidered on it, brought his political heft to the holiest Jewish site in Jerusalem,” wrote The New York Post.

Foer’s Haggadah
In an op-ed in The New York Times, writer Jonathan Safran Foer outlined why he felt the need to compile a new Seder book that has everyone talking. “Our grandparents were immigrants to America, but natives to Judaism. We are the opposite: fluent in ‘American Idol,’ but unschooled in Jewish heroes. And so we act like immigrants around Judaism: cautious, rejecting, self-conscious, and feigning (or achieving) indifference. In the foreign country of our faith, our need for a good guidebook is urgent,” he said. How are the reviews so far? “It’s that deep respect, even in the midst of playful or challenging comments, that comes across with the New American Haggadah,” said a Philadelphia Inquirer reviewer. “Considering the competing pile of Haggadahs at my seder table, there’s a chance it could be. But then again, when considering the illuminated nature of this Haggadah’s text, there’s a better chance I may use it two years in a row,” said Arwe Dworken at Heeb.

Who’s the top rabbi?
Newsweek once again ranked and left up for debate the top rabbis with David Wolpe taking the top spot. “In a series of disclaimers, they seek to head off the standard criticism engendered by such lists. They acknowledge that there are more than 50 worthy rabbis in the US and explain that most of the rabbis they recognized reside on the two coasts because that’s where the major Jewish seminaries and communities are located,” said Ari Ben Goldberg at The Times of Israel. Others were equally critical. Eric Herschthal at The Jewish Week argued, “To be sure, the problem isn’t with Wolpe — a contributor to this paper, and an extremely thoughtful rabbi. It’s with the increasing insignificance of a list made every year.  Here’s one suggestion on how to change that: do it every other year, or maybe every five, even ten.” Do it that way, and people will really care about it.

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Danny Groner is a contributing writer to the Jewish Journal. He has worked in journalism since he was a teenager, starting off as an intern for a local publication. During his...

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