Obama talks about Zionist influence

Barack Obama told a Jewish audience about how the notion of Zionism inspired him as a youth.

“I had a Jewish-American camp counselor who had spent time in Israel. And he talked about what it meant for Jews to have a homeland, particularly after the horror of the Holocaust.” Obama said in a town hall meeting Thursday at the B’nai Torah congregation in Boca Raton, Fla. “And he talked about how important it was for a people who had been uprooted – who had preserved their culture over centuries – to finally return to their homeland.”

The U.S. senator from Illinois, leading in the race to become the Democratic presidential nominee, is aggressively reaching out to the Jewish community in the face of a campaign by Republicans to raise questions about his proposal to negotiate directly with Iran.

“The idea that one could hang onto one’s sense of values, and have a sense of family, and despite being an outsider, somehow still have a place to come back to,” Obama said. “Not only a physical place, but also an emotional place and a spiritual place, was very powerful to me. So even before I fully understood the history of the Jewish people, the Zionist movement was something that I related to and connected to from my own experience.”

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