News Brief

A pro-McCain letter e-mailed to Pennsylvania Jews suggested that a vote for Barack Obama could bring another Holocaust.

Pennsylvania Democrats are calling on U.S. Sen. John McCain’s campaign to disavow the letter from the state Republican Party’s “Victory 2008” committee.

The letter, which reportedly was sent to 75,000 Jews, was signed by three prominent Jewish Republicans, including Sandra Schultz Newman, a former state Supreme Court justice, and I. Michael Coslov, the campaign chairman of the Philadelphia Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

With the election campaign drawing to a close, outreach to Jewish voters has intensified across Pennsylvania, a state the McCain camp has said he needs to win if he has any chance of capturing the White House.

The e-mail, after extolling McCain’s record and questioning U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s commitment to Israel — as well as his associations with William Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright — says that “Jewish Americans cannot afford to make the wrong decision on Tuesday, November 4th, 2008. Many of our ancestors ignored the warning signs in the 1930s and 1940s and made a tragic mistake. Let’s not make a similar one this year.”

State Rep. Josh Shapiro, an early backer of Obama who has taken the lead in Jewish outreach across the state, called the letter “absolutely abhorrent” and “scurrilous.” Invoking the Holocaust “went far over the line,” he said.

Other media focused more on the factual inaccuracies of the letter, including a statement that Obama, when he was a community organizer, had trained ACORN, a community organizing group, “to commit voter registration fraud.”

Michael Barley, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Republican Party, told The New York Times that the e-mail “definitely went a little bit farther than the facts would support” and that the political operative who composed it had been fired.

“This individual never worked for our campaign and that sort of rhetoric has no place in it,” said Paul Lindsay, a McCain-Palin spokesman. “The only candidate in this race who needs to repudiate anything is Barack Obama, who has failed to be straightforward with the American people about his relationship with unrepentant terrorist William Ayers.”

In the Philadelphia Jewish community, there appeared to be much consternation over the fact that Coslov signed on to the letter. Coslov is widely assumed to become the next federation president.

Some community leaders who are active Democrats called the letter “despicable.” Republican partisans tended to brush it off as “politics as usual.”

Coslov could not immediately be reached for comment, but the current president, Leonard Barrack, said the federation by-laws only prohibited the CEO and the president from engaging in partisan political activity. For anyone else, he said, “it’s a matter of people using their own discretion.”

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