Abe Foxman’s Visit to RS and President Obama’s Middle East Speech

by Rabbi Jill Maderer

Last night, Abe Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, spoke with a small group of Rodeph Shalom members.  His visit was a last-minute arrangement and so he came with no speech, only a willingness to meet members and answer questions.  Our questions varied from interest in his personal story to interest in his commentaries on political news in Europe and its impact on anti-semitism.  Most of all, we were interested in Foxman’s response to President Obama’s speech in Cairo. 

Foxman expressed respect for President Obama’s openess to a new approach in the Middle East.   But he saw the speech as a missed opportunity for what was left out.  Foxman was angry because Obama did not affirm the existence of Israel as a “Jewish State” and he emphasized the problem of the settlements without spending equal time focusing on the responsibility of the Palestinians. 

Although I was moved by Foxman’s personal story and by his passion, and I agreed with many of his sentiments, I have much more admiration for what Obama is trying to do.  It is difficult for me to imagine how the United States can broker peace in the Middle East, when one side is our friend and the other is less so.   So perhaps Obama’s administration’s priority is not to make nice with the American Jewish community– but to establish relationship and trust with the Arabs of the region.

The Association of Reform Zionists of America, part of the Union for Reform Judaism, has created a new resource to inform the discussion.   ARZA Weekly E-Alert  provides a digest of commentaries from different perspectives; this week’s digest focuses on responses to President Obama’s speech in Cairo. 

What do you think about President Obama’s Cairo speech and Abe Foxman’s response?

2 Responses to Abe Foxman’s Visit to RS and President Obama’s Middle East Speech

  1. Matt says:

    I thought that he was a great speaker, really passionate about his work. It’s tough for me, because I see both sides of things. On one hand, I understand the current administration’s viewpoint that the greater good sometimes trumps individual interests groups, and everyone needs to make sacrifices in order to achieve the end-goal of better relationships. I also agree that negotiations are a much better tactic, long-term, than force. However, I agree that it seems sort of one-sided at this point, and that the administration is really aiming to change the Palestinian viewpoint at Israel’s expense. Obama is both an idealist and a dreamer, and he seems to want to change the underlying Palestinian belief structure, which is great if it could actually work, but I am skeptical. As the events of yesterday demonstrated, anti-antisemitism is not going anywhere.

  2. lois swartz says:

    I came to Abe Foxman knowing he was born in 1940 Poland and converted to Christianity, enabling him to survive the Nazis. Cy and I put our children to bed by reciting the Shema together. Some nights I lingered and pondered how anyone could murder our beautiful sons because they were Jewish. When Mr. Foxman ended his talk with a Jewish Fundamentalisn coda, I cringed. My paraphrase of his words is that we Jews were the first on the “land” that the others never lived there. As a Post Enlightenment Jew I love our Torah study, often inter-textual, that builds study on cross cultural and critical Rabbinic thinking.

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