Jewish leaders meet Senate Democrats

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

A gaggle of Jewish leaders met with a record number of Senate Democrats today – 22 lawmakers in all, according to one count, including most of the top leadership.

The meeting, put together by the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), demonstrated the breadth of concerns of the community, according to several participants.

Major Jewish groups divided up in advance topics to discuss. AIPAC focused heavily on Iran, the American Jewish Committee on Israel, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs concentrated on energy and the Anti-Defamation League talked about hate crimes legislation.

AIPAC president Howard Kohr’s words were “very low key and conciliatory,” said a participant. Kohr also welcomed special Mideast envoy Howard Mitchell’s efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and praised  Gen. Keith Dayton’s work on bolstering Palestinian security.

The ADL’s Kenneth Jacobson thanked five Democratic senators, in particular, for their involvement in the recent passage of a hate crimes bill the group has been pushing for more than a decade – a bill that still has to clear a House-Senate conference committee.

The AJC’s David Harris dished up some criticism of President Obama for  portions of his Cairo speech to the Muslim world that Harris said ascribed the birth of Israel to the Holocaust, which he said plays into the hands of Israel’s enemies.

And Harris repeated claims that Obama has focused more on his demands for Israel than on for the Palestinians.

J Street, Americans for Peace Now and Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, pro-peace process groups, were in the room — but not called on to ask questions.

Also present: representatives of the American Jewish World Service, Hadassah, the American Jewish Congress, United Jewish Communities, NCSJ, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Jewish Labor Committee, American Friends of Lubavitch and the Rabbinic Assembly.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.