All People Deserve Respect


— by David Street

Yesterday, President Barack Obama joined with the sweeping majority of American Jews in supporting marriage equality for all Americans. Leading Jewish organizations including the NJDC lauded the President’s show of support.

“To put it plainly, the vast majority of American Jews are behind the President in support of marriage equality,” commented NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris. “In recent decades, many of our community’s mainstream institutions have worked to welcome and include gays and lesbians-to the point where it is now a widely accepted norm, with certain Jewish clergy routinely performing same-sex marriages. But perhaps most notably, the recent poll released by the Public Religion Research institute found that at least 81% of American Jews support marriage equality — showing that grassroots American Jewry, our communal institutions, and now the President are united on this important civil rights issue.”

A roundup of their statements appears below.

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

We enthusiastically welcome President Obama’s endorsement today of marriage equality for all couples. History will regard his affirmation of this core right for the LGBT community as a key moment in the advance of civil rights in America. … Civil marriage has historically connoted social acceptance and the recognition of not just a legal relationship between two individuals, but as the Supreme Court has recognized, is ‘the most important relation in life’ (Maynard v. Hill); it is ‘a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred’ (Griswold v. Connecticut). These rights are due no less to same sex couples than heterosexual ones, as the President’s comments today acknowledge….

The support of the President on this issue is particularly meaningful to us as Jews. Our holy texts teach us that all people are created b’tselem Elohim (in the Divine image) (Gen. 1:27), and as such are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. We are inspired by our faith and history to stand up for the rights of LGBT Americans, including civil marriage, for we have known the experience of being victims of group hatred, persecution, and discrimination. We feel a keen empathy for those who are still be victimized, deprived of opportunities, and discriminated against because of who they are.

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

We are gratified to know that President Obama has said publicly what so many of us have known for some time — that civil marriage is a basic civil right. It should not be denied to anyone.  We stand firm in our belief that civil marriage, which is not bound by halacha [Jewish law] but conveys many civil rights and privileges, should be open to all. That comes from our belief that human beings are created b’tzelem Elohim — in God’s image — and therefore have an inherent dignity.

Keshet, which works to “ensure that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Jews are fully included in all parts of the Jewish community” sent the tweet on the right.

More reactions after the jump.
Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization of America, said:

Hadassah commends President Obama for taking an important step today in showing his commitment to and respect for the LGBT community. Hadassah has long supported LGBT rights, and we firmly believe that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that all Americans are treated equally and have equal access to the same rights. Hadassah is committed to the preservation of rights for all people and vigorously condemns discrimination of any kind. As Zionists, Hadassah members understand the dangers of bigotry.

National Council of Jewish Women CEO Nancy K. Kaufman said:

NCJW hails President Obama’s decision to express his personal support for same-sex marriage. NCJW has been a staunch supporter of marriage equality and we happily welcome the president to this fight for fundamental human rights at this important time. While setbacks such as the lamentable vote yesterday in North   Carolina are unfortunate, we firmly believe that supporters of marriage equality are on the right side of history. NCJW is proud to work with the President of the United States to ensure that gays and lesbians are protected equally under the law and are treated with the dignity they deserve.

The National Jewish Democratic Council‘s Chair Marc R. Stanley said:

On behalf of NJDC’s board, staff, and membership, I am pleased that the President has made a decisive statement in support of marriage equality. From working to end the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy to ending the Federal Government’s defense of the unjust Defense of Marriage Act, this President has demonstrated an unmatched record of progress in favor of equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans. President Obama has admirably continued to demonstrate the values of tikkun olam in his work to make America a better place for all Americans. I am truly proud of President Obama and know that so many others in the Jewish community share my feelings.

Bend the Arc

: A Partnership for Justice’s Alan van Capelle said:

Tonight when I go home and look at my six month old son it will be the first time I will be able to tell him that our president believes we are a family. For many Americans, this is a political issue. For millions more, it’s deeply personal.

I applaud President Obama for coming out in support of marriage equality. Today, he showed himself as a leader who is in step with a majority of Americans, and millions of people of faith all over this country who support the right of gay and lesbian people to marry, including 76 percent of American Jews.

Haaretz reported that Israeli LGBT leaders lauded the President’s statement of support:

Irit Rosenblum, founder and CEO of the organization New Family, called the move extremely important. ‘It is a huge step for the enlightened world that the strongest leader publicly recognizes the new family. In doing so, he is obviously posing a challenge to the world’s religious public. I think that this is certainly a very brave act. He is creating the necessary world balance. At a time when it seems the world is becoming increasingly fundamentalist and conservative, this is a liberal point of light.’

According to New Family, there are currently some 18,000 same-sex families living in Israel. Some 4,500 children are being raising in same-sex families, and that number has risen significantly in recent years….

Itay Pinkas, chairman of Tel Aviv’s gay community center, also joined in praising Obama, Pinkas further criticized the situation of the LGBT community in Israel. ‘The only two leaders to bring up the rights of the community in a congressional speech were Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama spoke of the importance of equality during his inauguration speech…he is one of the heads of state most supportive of equality for all citizens.’

Jay Michaelson explained Three Reasons Obama’s Right on Gay Marriage in The Forward:

First is the ‘who.’ Obama’s support of same-sex marriage signals that he’s not going to let a noisy religious minority dictate public policy. This is important for all religious minorities, including the Jewish one, because that same group of angry fundamentalists wants to Christianize America, support the radical settler-fringe in Israel against Israel’s own best interests (as reflected by the mainstream of Israeli public opinion), and erode the separation of church and state. … If American Jews care about maintaining our religious freedom, we must not allow sectarian religious values to dictate public policy. Period.

Second is the ‘what.’ Obama’s statement brings him in line not just with 55% of the American public, as revealed in a recent Gallup poll, but with the overwhelming majority of non-fundamentalist religious people as well….

Most American Jews …  know that the two obscure and unclear verses in Leviticus may be interpreted in any number of ways. And we know that the core values of our religious and social traditions are upheld, not undermined, by interpreting them narrowly, such that they apply to virtually no LGBT people today.

Which brings me to my third point, which is the religious nature of Obama’s statement itself. What the President said today means little as a statement of public policy since it has little impact ‘on the ground.’ It means more as an expression of personal conviction and conscience. What he said was that, over time, he has seen the truth of same-sex couples: that they are as capable of commitment, love, and sanctity of opposite-sex ones; and that it is an injustice to deny the benefits of marriage to gay people. Those are religious values, expressed in a personal way. It demonstrates the growth of individual conscience: he used to feel one way, but over time, in a careful and long process of discernment, he has now come to feel a different way….

Obama’s statement is thus a model for how all of us ought to evolve on issues of values and society. We grow as human beings by a combination of humility and courage: humility in the face of what we do not know, and courage to take a stand and change our minds. If that’s not a Jewish value, I don’t know what is.

Romney and Paul? That’s The Ticket

— by David Streeter

Over the last few months, The New York Times and The Washington Post have reported on the “strategic partnership” between Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and anti-Israel Representative Ron Paul (R-TX). This week, The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein and Slate’s Dave Weigel both noted that the Paul campaign’s latest negative ad is directed at Romney’s main rival-former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)-despite the claims in the ad applying to both Santorum and Romney. Many have speculated that Romney has been courting Paul in order to ensure a unified Republican Party if he receives the nomination. Stein also noted regarding the Romney-Paul relationship:


Mitt Romney gave his big economic policy statement today at Ford Field Stadium in Detroit, Michigan. However, Romney doesn’t draw the kind of crowds that Ron Paul does. However, Romney calculates that his delegates along with Paul’s will be enough to capture the Republican nomination, August in Tampa.

The Texas Republican has refused to attack Romney during televised debates. He’s also devoted a considerable portion of his vast campaign resources to television ads that undermine Romney’s opponent of the week, from Rick Perry, to Newt Gingrich, to his latest foe, Rick Santorum.

Paul and Romney are reportedly friends, but that seemed like only half the story. The most logical explanation for the alliance was that Romney had promised Paul some sort of future role, either at the GOP convention or even in his administration. Some also speculated that Romney might have plans for Paul’s son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

More after the jump.
Lately though, there has been speculation that Romney could select Paul to be his running mate. The Daily Mail’s Toby Harnden wrote after last night’s debate:

After tonight’s debate, in which Ron Paul and Mitt Romney repeatedly attacked Rick Santorum over his 16-year record in Congress, the former US Senator for Pennsylvania hinted that something nefarious was going on.

‘You have to ask Congressman Paul and Governor Romney what they’ve got going together,’ Santorum told reporters in the spin room in Mesa, Arizona. ‘Their commercials look a lot alike and so do their attacks.’

Santorum’s top strategist John Brabender went even further, charging that the two men had ‘joined forces’ and were coordinating attacks against his man.

‘Clearly there’s a tag team strategy between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. For all I know, Mitt Romney might be considering Ron Paul as his running mate. Clearly there is now an alliance between those two and you saw that certainly in the debate.’

There has also been speculation that Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) — Paul’s son who shares many of his father’s same anti-Israel views — could be a potential vice presidential candidate. According to WFPL:

Senator Rand Paul first discussed his higher aspirations at the beginning of this year. He said he wouldn’t close the door on being a Vice Presidential candidate. After a speech in Louisville today, Paul held that door firmly open, saying he wants to be part of the national debate.

Paul’s name has swirled as a possible pick that would give Romney points with the Tea Party.

When asked directly what he would say if Romney made the offer, Paul tried to punt.

‘I don’t know if I can answer that question, but I can say it would be an honor to be considered,’ he said.

The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis wrote:

Of course, this could be much ado about nothing – just a politician answering a question. On the other hand, it is sure to spark more speculation that some sort of deal may be in the works between the Romney and Paul camps. It’s not as if Ron Paul’s campaign hasn’t stoked speculation. As the Dallas Morning News reported, Paul’s national campaign chairman, Jesse Benton, recently said: ‘Any Republican should have Rand Paul on his short list.’

On the surface, tapping Paul as veep might not make sense. But conservatives are refusing to go along and eat the dog food with Romney – and adding Rand Paul to the ticket would fire conservatives up – and ensure that Ron Paul drops any plans to launch a 3rd party challenge.

And just imagine if Romney arrives at the GOP convention needing some of Paul’s delegates to win the nomination?

It’s not an absurd idea.

The New Yorker’s Kelefa Sanneh observed that the elder Paul-by being quiescent and cooperating with Romney and the mainstream of the GOP-could be paving the way for a future presidential run by his son:

There is only one politician whom Paul regularly praises in his speeches-a man he coyly refers to as a ‘senator from Kentucky.’ If Paul sees a future for himself in the Republican Party, it is through his son Rand, who might have an easier time than his father in attracting traditional conservatives to his cause. (During his campaign for the Senate, for example, Rand Paul declined to rule out using force to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.) Unlike most politicians on the verge of retirement, Paul can’t accurately claim that he has nothing to lose by breaking with the party that has been his home for all but one of his years in politics. Hope for his son’s prospects-and a disinclination to put him in an awkward position-might be enough to keep Paul from ending his political career with another third-party campaign. If he split the vote, indirectly helping to reëlect [sic] Obama, it might be a long time before Republicans were willing to get behind anyone named Paul.

More information on why Ron Paul matters is available here.  

Ten Things Every American Jew Should Know About Mitt Romney


Pro-life mailer sent by Romney campaign to Iowa voters


Ron Paul (R-TX) & Mitt Romney (R-MA) laugh during break at debate Jan. 23. Photo: Chris O’Meara (AP)

(NJDC) Below are ten documented things every American Jew should know about former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney; follow the links to view supporting materials.

  1. Romney emphasized recently that he would defund Planned Parenthood, and that his would “be a pro-life presidency.”
  2. Questions linger surrounding the Iran-tainted assets of Romney’s charity, even as President Obama places unprecedented pressure on Iran.
  3. With each passing month, Romney has disagreed more and more with the scientific consensus regarding global climate change.
  4. Romney vehemently opposed the President’s contraception compromise, which will ensure that women’s preventive services are widely available while addressing religious liberty concerns. This compromise was praised by groups ranging from the Catholic Health Association to the Orthodox Union.
  5. During nationally-televised debates, Romney has engaged in outright lies surrounding the President’s record on Israel, and he uses Israel as a partisan wedge issue whenever possible.
  6. While 76% of Jews support gay marriage and even more support gay rights, Romney doesn’t just oppose gay marriage — he has chosen to engage in gay-baiting rhetoric in front of conservative crowds.
  7. Romney told CNN, “yes, I would vote for” the anti-Israel Ron Paul for president if Paul were to become the GOP nominee.
  8. Romney’s flip-flops are legendary; for example, he supported key elements of the Affordable Care Act — including the individual mandate — but he now promises to dismantle it.
  9. Romney is no moderate, at least not now. By his own description, he’s “severely conservative.”
  10. As the front page of The Washington Post has recently noted, Romney has formed a “strategic partnership” with the anti-Israel Ron Paul.

JTA, WaPost, Conservative Blogger, And ThinkProgress Agree On Discredited Jewish Opinion Poll

–by David Streeter

We wanted to make sure that you saw the growing consensus — now from JTA’s Ron Kampeas, The Washington Post’s Polling Manager Peyton Craighill, conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin, and ThinkProgress — regarding the discredited McLaughlin and Cadell poll that falsely claims American Jews are abandoning President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.

JTA refers to this as “an expensive push poll;” the Post’s polling manager describes it as “a clear example of advocacy polling;” ThinkProgress http://thinkprogress.org/secur… a fascinating conflict of interest, in which the pollsters are themselves founders of the organization that commissioned the poll; and even conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin notes, “I share criticism that some of the questions in the recently released Caddell-McLaughlin poll were quite tilted, shedding doubt on the utility of the poll.”

JTA’s Ron Kampeas wrote about the poll:

[Q]uestions are almost as grievously skewed: ‘Should Jerusalem remain the undivided capital of Israel or should the United States force Israel to give parts of Jerusalem, including Christian and Jewish holy sites, to the Palestinian Authority.’

Who has proposed that, precisely? Not Obama — not anyone serious.

That makes this an expensive push poll.

The other problem is this question:

Would you vote to re-elect Barack Obama as President or would you consider voting for someone else?

More after the jump.
Tevi Troy at National Review describes the 43-48 results as showing ‘that only 43 percent of Jews plan to vote to reelect Obama in 2012.’

Of course it shows nothing of the sort. First of all, incumbents always fare relatively poorly against generics of the opposing party. Except, this isn’t even a generic of the opposing party — it’s ‘someone else.’ It could be a Democrat in the primaries. It could be an independent.

And more critically, the respondents are saying they would ‘consider voting’ for someone else. I can’t see how every Independent responding, and not a few Democrats, would not ‘consider’ voting for another candidate.

Again, it’s meaningless.

The Washington Post’s Polling Manager Peyton Craighill said:

[The poll] ‘is a clear example of advocacy polling. They’ve generated leading questions to elicit a desired result to prove a point. In no way does this represent neutral, independent research.’

Conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin, Craighill’s colleague at The Washington Post, agreed with him and offered her own criticism of the poll:

I share criticism that some of the questions in the recently released Caddell-McLaughlin poll were quite tilted, shedding doubt on the utility of the poll. But a fuller context for the effort to poll American Jews is long overdue.

Peyton Craighill, The Post’s polling manager, doesn’t merely take issue with this poll. He offers some important cautions about efforts to poll a very small segment of the electorate.

ThinkProgress uncovered a potential conflict of interest during its investigation of the poll:

ThinkProgress looked at the organization commissioning the poll – Secure America Now – and uncovered a potential conflict of interest for the pollsters….

ThinkProgress asked John McLaughlin about Secure America Now and he told us:

Pat [Caddell] and I worked with [Secure America Now] to do the survey. […] They paid for it.

A little research revealed an article on the conservative Big Peace website from February, discussing how Secure America Now was founded by John McLaughlin and Pat Caddell to ‘inject national security issues into the public dialogue.’

McLaughlin acknowledged his leadership role at Secure America Now in a phone conversation today…

The poll makes no mention of the fact that an organization Caddell described as ‘a grassroots place where people can join up and begin to do things to force [national security and foreign policy] issues into the debate,’ commissioned its own founders to conduct the poll.

Clearly, the McLaughlin and Cadell poll is simply too flawed to be taken seriously.

Keep in mind that Gallup found last week that American Jews are not only supportive of Obama, but that they remain the President’s strongest supporters. NJDC’s statement on the Gallup poll, as well as the full release from Gallup, can be viewed here.

Please let us know if you have any questions about this poll, or any of the other recently debunked polls.