In 2012, President Barack Obama was aggressively pursuing a policy with which many members of the Orthodox Jewish community vehemently disagreed; it was the nuclear deal with Iran. The impending deal was seen by the OU’s leaders as running counter to the security interests of the United States as well as Israel. The challenge facing the OU was how to respond to the President’s effort. While some Orthodox (and other) Jewish organizations issued press releases stating harsh critiques of the President and those in his cabinet pursuing the policy, the Orthodox Union took a different path.
Having carefully cultivated relationships with senior Administration officials, and even the President himself, the OU leaders sought and held meetings with the President and senior Cabinet members wherein we attempted to persuade the President and his team to change course. The meetings were cordial; they focused on the substance of the matter and the Orthodox Union leaders made their case on the basis of an assessment of American interests as well as an appeal to values taught by Judaism and incorporated into the American ethos.
The meeting with the President concluded with the OU leaders wishing the President well and taking a photo with him. The meeting was reported in the press (both mainstream and Jewish) and, among other things, sparked some members of the OU community to telephone and e-mail the organization to express their criticism that the OU did not denounce the President for his actions but, they said, seemed to give this politician who was acting contrary to the community’s interests, in their words “the OU’s hekhsher.”
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.
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