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Hoenlein: I never dissed Obama campaign

Malcolm Hoenlein, the professional head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is denying this report in Ha’aretz which suggests that he expressed concerns about the campaign of Barack Obama.

Hoenlein told JTA that Ha’aretz took general concerns he had voiced about the desire for change among supporters of many of the candidates and made it sound like he had applied them specifically to the Obama campaign.

In particular he denied saying: “There is a legitimate concern over the zeitgeist around the campaign.”

Hoenlein said he never uses the word “zeitgeist.”

Here is our brief:

A prominent Jewish communal leader is denying a newspaper report saying that he voiced concerns about the campaign of Barack Obama.

The report, published Tuesday on the English Web site of Ha’aretz, quoted Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, as saying he was worried about the emphasis on change in Obama’s campaign.

“All the talk about change, but without defining what that change should be is an opening for all kind of mischief,” Hoenlein was quoted as saying at a news conference in Jerusalem. According to Ha’aretz, Hoenlein noted that Obama “has plenty of Jewish supporters and there are many Jews around him,” but said that “there is a legitimate concern over the zeitgeist around the campaign.”

In an interview with JTA, Hoenlein insisted that Ha’aretz had misrepresented some of his comments and misquoted him in other cases.

The article, he said, was “not at all accurate.”

According to Hoenlein, the concerns he voiced related to the calls for change coming from the supporters of several candidates, including Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Ron Paul. The worry, Hoenlein added, is that people’s desire for change foreshadows a change in the American political climate that could ultimately lead to a weakening of U.S. support for Israel.

“I did not speak about any specific campaign,” Hoenlein said, adding that he only mentioned Obama’s Jewish support in response to a question about whether people should be concerned about his positions on Israel.

He also insisted that he never uses the word “zeitgeist.”

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