Update to URJ Board of Trustees following White House meeting with Jewish Leaders, July 13, 2009
July 14, 2009 22 Tamuz 5769
From: Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie
To: URJ Board of Trustees
I hope that you are having a pleasant and relaxing summer.
I wanted to share with you that yesterday I joined with 15 other American Jewish leaders in a meeting with President Obama at the White House. This was the President's first formal meeting since the election with a representative group of Jewish leaders. Also present were Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, political advisor David Axelrod and several other senior aides. The meeting consisted of a brief introductory statement by the President, followed by discussion and comments. We spent some time on domestic issues, but most of the meeting was devoted to the Middle East the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the state of the Arab world and situation in Iran.
Since we were asked not to discuss any specific statements by the President outside of the meeting, I cannot share with you details of the talks. But I can share general impressions of the meeting. The President spoke compellingly about his deep concern for Israel and his commitment to keep Israel strong. He also spoke about the danger to Israel of a nuclear-armed Iran and offered his administration's thoughts on how to counter the threat.
In general, President Obama demonstrated extraordinary command of the history and politics of the Middle East, both in Israel and in the surrounding countries. He knows the area, the leaders and the strategic factors at play in the current conflicts. I left confident that, together with his advisors, he had the interest, the instincts and the expertise to devise a policy that might be able to move Arabs and Israelis closer to peace.
In short, the President was impressive and forthcoming on the foreign policy concerns that have been so widely discussed in the Jewish community in recent months. During the discussion, there was not total agreement among everyone in the room, but it is fair to say that his knowledge of the region and his sincere devotion to assuring Israel's survival came through in a powerful way. I left grateful for his leadership and confident of his commitment to Israel's well-being.
Below are links to articles in the JTA and Forward for additional information: