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February 1, 2013

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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 1, 2013 Rabbis tweak inaugural readings to make them 'Jewier' By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Preaching to a preacher man--or woman--doesn't always play out as planned. That's the lesson learned [last] week by officials at the National Cathedral after several clergy, including three rabbis, made impromptu changes to the readings they were given to deliver at a prayer service following the Jan. 22 inauguration of President Obama. Rabbis Rick Jacobs, Sharon Brous and Julie Schonfeld made changes to the texts they were handed in the hope of making the language "Jewier," as Brous put it later: more conversational, more forthright and more reflective of the rabbis' understanding of Jewish theology. "I wanted to be able to pray with real kavannah [inten- tion] in that moment, so the specific language mattered a lot to me," Brous, the founder of the independent IKAR congregation in Los Angeles, told JTA in an email. "I worked to find a way to capture the essence of the prayer in a Jewish idiom, to translate the beautiful sentiment into words that would be more personally resonant." A spokeswoman for the National Cathedral said the institution had no problem with the changes. Neither did Josh Dubois, the White House's faith-based initiatives boss, who helped coordinate the event. Gina Campbell, the cathe- dral's director of worship, "encouraged all the religious leaders to be faithful to their own traditions" and to emend texts as they saw fit, said the spokeswoman, who spoke on condition of not being named. Clergy were assigned read- ings rather than asked to offer their own because the service was pegged to the inauguration's theme, Faith in America's Future, drawn from Abraham Lincoln's determination 150 years ago to keep the nation united and to expand its liberties to all Tweak on page 19A Ron Kampeas/JTA Rabbi Sharon Brous, left, leading a prayer at the presiden- tial inaugural service at the National Cathedral in Washington, Jan. 22. At far right, Reform leader Rabbi Rick Jacob& in prayer shawl, also participates, Jan. 22. Jewish Democrats low key, grateful at second inauguration By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)--The inaugural poem included a "shalom," and three rabbis and a cantor attended the traditional next-day inaugu- ral blessing. But the message that Jewish Democrats were most eager to convey during President Obama's second in- auguration on Jan. 21 was that the tong romance between the community and the party was nowhere near over. There was no big Jewish Obama inaugural ball this year--overall, celebrations were fewer and less ambi- tious than in 2009--but in small discreet parties across Washington last week, Jew- ish Democrats breathed with relief that their candidate was reelected and had a substantial majority among Jewish voters. "It's easy to forget, as it al- ready seems a long time ago, but despite a profoundly nega- tive campaign aimed at the president in our community, he overwhelmingly won the Jewish vote," David Harris, the president of the National By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)--With the Israeli election results split evenly between the right-wing bloc and everyone else, no one in Washington is ready to stake their reputation on what the outcome means for the U.S.-Israel relationship and the Middle East. Except for this: The next Israeli government likely will include more than two lawmak- ers committed to a two-state solution with the Palestinians. In mid-December, resigned to what then seemed to be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's certain reelection at the helm of a hard-right government, staff at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv drew up what they believed would be the most likely new governing coalition. Then they researched each member and counted the lawmakers who had expressly committed themselves to a two-state solution. They came up with a grand total of two: Netanyahu and Carmel Shama HaCohen, a real estate agent from Ramat Gan and a political up-and-comer. HaCohen is unlikely to claim a seat in the next Knesset. He's No. 32 on the Likud Beitenu list, which is projected to take 31 seats, though some ballots have yet to be counted. But the prospect of more than two two-staters on the governing Jewish Democratic Council, said in an interview. Obama scored 68 percent to 70 percent of the Jewish vote in November's presidential contest, according to exit polls, a slight decline from the 74 to 78 percent he won in '08. Republicans throughout the Obama presidency have made claims of a drift between the Democrats and what for decades has been a core and generous constituency. They have cited in particular Obama's tense relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benja- min Netanyahu; according to a recent report, Obama has said repeatedly that, "Israel doesn't know what its own best interests are." Yet Obama's Jewish ties seem as deep as ever. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, em- ceed the inauguration ceremo- nies at the Capitol. U.S. Rep. DebbieWasserman Schultz (D- Fla.), who has made a mantra of saying that the Democratic Party is the "natural political home for the Jews," reassumed her position as Democratic National Committee chair on Jan. 22 at the committee's winter meeting here. Rabbi Amy Schwartzman of Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, Va., delivered an invocation at the event. A few blocks away, at the National Cathedral, four Jew- ish clergy participated in the presidential inaugural prayer ...... _'__ n_LL: rt* I i tl Vlt* IXdUUI IXlt..lX Jd,UU, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the executive vice president of the Conservative movement's Rabbinical As- sembly; Rabbi Sharon Brous, the founder of the I KAR Jewish community in Los Angeles; and Cantor Mikhail Manevich of the Washington Hebrew Con- gregation, a Reform synagogue just blocks from the cathedral. There were some hiccups: Muslim and Jewish clerics joined their Christian col- leagues in a procession headed by ministers bearing aloft a crucifix. Brous substantially changed her prayer reading, which had been drafted by the cathedral, to make it more forthright. A genteel rebuffing of "favoritism" in her prepared text became a rebuke against "biases" in her delivered re- marks. "I wanted to make it a little Jewier," she told another rabbi after the service. The day before, when Obama fulfilled another time-honored inaugural tradition with a visit to historic St. John's Church i _L /- ,i aCi-OS$ tnt: treet Hu[n utle White House, Rabbi David Saperstein, who directs the Reform movement's Religious Action Center, and Rabbi Jack Moline, who helms the Conser- vative Adas Achim synagogue in Alexandria, Va., delivered readings. Sixth and I, the historic synagogue in the city's down- town, drew several hundred to a Shabbat service for govern- ment and campaign workers. Wasserman Schultz delivered a sermon, and although she avoided blatant partisanship, she described Democratic policy objectives--among them, access to health care and a reinforced safety net for the poor--as Jewish values. Otherwise, the Jewish pro- file was low key. NJDC, along with J Street, the liberal Jewish group that had made its hall- mark the backing of Obama's Middle East policies, hosted private parties, reflecting the overall subdued festivities. There were only two "official" balls this year instead of 10 and 800,000 people poured into the capital, a million less than four yedr dgo. A Jewish official said there were similarly fewer Jewish visitors to Washington this year, which likely drove the decision by the major Jewish groups not to repeat the ball at the Capital Hilton. In 2009, hundreds of Jewish Chicagoans were in Washington; this year there was not as much interest. Instead, many celebrants dedicated themselves to ser- vice, in line with a call from the White House for such projects to be timed with Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The District of Columbia Jewish Community Center drew 25 volunteers to help refurbish two apartments for people transitioning from homelessness. "Volunteering today was meaningful because service is very importantto the president, and Martin Luther King is important to him," said Erica Steen, the director of commu- nityengagement for the DCJCC. J Street brought in 75 activ- ists from across the country to distribute leaflets to passers-by asking them to urge Obama to make Middle Eastpeacemaking a prioi-it-y. "Without strong U.S. leader- ship it won't be resolved," said Talia Ben Amy, a 26-year-old assistant editor from New York who was handing out literature near the National Mall. Eran Sharon, a law graduate from the University of Texas at Austin who is on a fellowship with Jews United for Justice, was helping out at a homeless kitchen after the Sixth and I service. The second inaugura- tion, he said, had brought on more of a sense of relief than exultation. "It's a new opportunity to finish the policies Obama has started"said Sharon, 29. "Hope - fully with less bickering with Congress." Obama's likely takeaway from Israeli election: President Obama speaks their meetings on May 20, 2011. with the split Knesset, while ap - prehension within the Obama administration about a Netan- yahu driven into recalcitrance by hard-line partners has likely diminished. White House spokesman Jay Carney eagerly took a question on Jan. 22 onwhat the elections meant for peace prospects, even before official results were in and when exit polls projected Netanyahu's right-religious bloc emergingwitharazor-thin majority. "The United States remains committed, as it has been for a long time, to working with the parties to press for the goal of a two-state solution," Carney said. "That has not changed and it will not change. We will continue to make clear that only through direct negotia- tions between the parties can More 2-state advocates Pete Souza/White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following dress all the permanent status issues that need to be addressed and achieve the peace that they both deserve: two states for two peoples with a sovereign, viable and independent Pales- tine living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel." The language was boiler- plate, but the context was not: Just two weeks ago, the narra- tive was that President Obama had all but given up on advanc- ing peace while Netanyahu was prime minister, believing that "Israel doesn't know what its own best interests are," ac- cording to a report by Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic. David Makovsky, an analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tankwith close ties to the major Israeli parties and the White istration was likely to proceed with cautious optimism. "We're entering into a period of uncertainty where Israeli politics will look like a Rubik's cube," Makovsky said. "But fromWashington's perspective, there mightbe more cards than a couple of weeks ago." The Obama-Netanyahu dra- maofrecentyears, arising from tensions over Israel's settlement building and how aggressively to confront Iran, may not soon disappear. In his post-election speech, Netanyahu said pre- venting Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon remains his No. i priority. Obama also wants to keep Iran from having a nuclear bomb, which the Islamic Republic has denied it is seek- ing. But the two leaders have disagreed on the efficacy of sanctions and the timing of a ,..sjd.e ..b.a.s r{sen...drama.t!c.a j!y. ..... t.heP.a!e.s.tjnjansand.!.s.r.a.e!isad.-..,t.he O bama a.d.min- possible military option. Additionally, there is a sense among Israeli rightists that Obama's remark was leaked to Goldberg in a bid to bring down Netanyahu's poll num- bers, although no evidence has emerged to support the claim. The upside for Obama, however, is that Netanyahu will likely first court the cen- trist parties in coalition talks. According to news reports, he called Yair Lapid, the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, shortly after the polls closed on Jan. 22 and told him they had great things to do together. In his own speech, Netanyahu said he could see "many partners" in the next government. Lapid, the telegenic former journalist whose new party snagged an unexpected 19 seats, was the surprise winner in the balloting. He backs ne- gotiations with the Palestinians and withdrawal from much of the West Bank, although he also aggressively courted some settlers. More piquantly, his chief adviser is Mark Mell- man, a pollster ensconced in Washington's Democratic establishment who has close White House ties. Netanyahu's pivot to the center is to be expected, said Josh Block, who directs The Israel Project, a group that disseminates pro-Israel materi- als to journalists and opinion makers. "Predictions of Israeli voter apathy and of a rightward shift in the Israeli elector- ate, both of which reached the status of conventional wisdom on the eve of the election, seem to have been incorrect," Block said in an email. "The voting, which was marked by near-historic turnout, appears to show an Israeli electorate reflecting a practical centrism: a desire for strong security and peace with Palestinians, a focus on economic issues and needs of the middle class, and a com- mitment to free markets and religious secularism." Much of the election was fought on the widening in- come gaps in Israel, as well as on the role of the haredi Orthodox in Israeli affairs. Those issues likely will pre- dominate in coalition nego- tiations, said Peter Medding, a political science professor at Hebrew University whose specialties include U.S.-Israel relations. Medding said the nego- tiations could take weeks, particularly because of Lapid's emphasis on drafting haredi Orthodox students and remov- ing Orthodox influence from the public sphere. "The kind of policies Lapid has been putting forward does not sit well with some of the right's natural coalition part- ners, particularly Shas," the Sephardic Orthodox party that won 11 seats.