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RJC, ECI demand removal of ‘radical’ rabbi from Obama list

by Suzanne Pollak, JTA

August 24, 2012 | 10:22 am

President Barack Obama in Las Vegas, Nev., on Aug. 22. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Barack Obama in Las Vegas, Nev., on Aug. 22. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Two conservative groups called on the Obama campaign to sever ties with a “radical” on its newly-released list of more than 600 rabbis who support the president’s reelection.

The campaign rejected the demand.

The Republican Jewish Coalition on Thursday “expressed profound outrage” that Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, a Renewal rabbi from California that the RJC described as a “radical rabbi”, is part of Rabbis for Obama, which was launched Tuesday.

Gottlieb sits on the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that is active in the campaign to use boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel into ending the occupation of the West Bank, and that has no official position on whether Israel should exist as a Jewish state.

In September 2008, she was part of a coalition of religious groups that spoke about the Holocaust and Palestinian rights with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a New York hotel. At that event, she said she favored face-to-face reconciliation, and asked Ahmadinejad, who has denied the Holocaust, to “change the way you speak about the Holocaust.”

Gottlieb is one of eight Jewish Voice for Peace members on the list.

“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 RJC wrote in a statement to JTA.

Joining the RJC in calling on Obama to distance itself from the eight JVP members was the Emergency Committee for Israel, a group that has backed Republican candidates for Congress.

“It was particularly shocking to see that your campaign had recruited, and was touting the support of, rabbis who have no commitment to Israel’s security, and whose values are representative of a small and extreme group of anti-Israel activists – and certainly not of the pro-Israel community,” William Kristol, ECI’s founder, wrote in a letter to Obama.

The Obama campaign dismissed the call to remove anyone from the list.

“The President’s strong support of Israel and toughest-ever actions against Iran has led rabbis from across the political spectrum to express their support for the president and have committed to seeing him reelected,” a campaign official told JTA. “The President obviously does not endorse or embrace their every affiliation, action or utterance.”

Rabbi Sam Gordon of Illinois, one of three co-chairs of Rabbis for Obama, criticized the RJC. “I think picking out one rabbi out of 613 is missing the point and continuing to demonize those who disagree with a specific position of certain people within the Jewish community.”

He praised Obama’s “desire to bring about a lasting peace with security for Israel.”

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