Have you ever heard of Kehilath Jeshurun, a modern Orthodox synagogue in Manhattan? Well, maybe you should have. KJ is wired. Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, the associate rabbi at KJ, is delivering the opening benediction at the Republican National Convention tonight.
It’s a shot across Obama’s bow. KJ’s head rabbi, Haskel Lookstein, is a sometime Obama ally. He delivered a prayer at the National Cathedral at the Obama Inaugural Run-up, and took heat from other Orthodox Jews for setting foot in a church. He attended the Rabin funeral with Bill Clinton.
But Lookstein lately met with Obama and slammed him afterward:
“The one thing the Palestinians have to be pressured to do is to sit down at the table and negotiate without preconditions. The President has not done this and he avoided giving a clear response to the question of how he is specifically pressuring the Palestinians.”..,
At the end of the meeting with President Obama, Rabbi Lookstein gave the president’s Jewish chief of staff, Jack Lew, a copy of his book, which he inscribed, “May you, unlike American Jewish leaders during the Holocaust, speak truth to power when the opportunity presents itself.”
“My only question,” Rabbi Lookstein concluded, is “will the President listen? I hope the answer to that is yes.”
As for separation of church and state (per Shmuel’s comment in comment thread below): Note that Lew’s being an observant Jew is important to Jerusalem Post and to Marc Zell, Israeli settler who participated in Romney fundraiser in Jerusalem.
More on KJ, the power synagogue that has clout across party lines: Former AG Michael Mukasey is a member of KJ (which Gawker link says had big holdings in Madoff funds) and his wife was principal of the KJ-affiliated Ramaz School. Former Bush Deputy Health and Human Services Secretary Tevi Troy is a Ramaz alum. (According to Wikipedia, so are writers Daphne Merkin and Elizabeth Wurtzel.) Rep. Jerrold Nadler sent his son to Ramaz. Former Bush aide Jay Lefkowitz is said to be a KJ congregant and was married by Rabbi Lookstein.