A Philly fund-raiser throws support to Obama


Jewish attorneys raising money for Democratic presidential candidates is hardly news. Nor is it all that unusual for them to switch allegiances once their favorite is out of the game. Still, not so long ago, at least one of Hillary Clinton’s most ardent supporters and fund-raisers had some major questions about Barack Obama, particularly on issues of concern to the Jewish community.

But now Philadelphia attorney Mark Aronchick is making those money pitches for the presumptive nominee. He tells JTA that after some initial concerns about some of Obama’s advisers, he did “due diligence” on Obama’s positions on Israel and social justice issues. And he was awed at the senator’s recent AIPAC speech.

“Obama gave one of the best speeches I have ever heard at an AIPAC gathering.”

The senator explained his positions in a way that demonstrated his commitment, Aronchick said, without pandering to the pro-Israel crowd. Aronchick cited Obama’s detailed position about negotiating with Iran, his commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge and his understanding that Israel needs to make decisions about Jerusalem and other negotiations with the Palestinians.

“He made me realize that there is an enormous opportunity here,” Aronchick said. “I’m crazy about Hillary Clinton and think she would have been the most remarkable president in my lifetime.
But I’m totally there with Sen. Obama now.”

More on Aronchick and his Zen-like take on the presidential contest after the jump.

The Philadelphia Inquirer profiled Aronchick and another local Jewish attorney, Alan Kessler, pointing out the differences in their level of enthusiasm for the presumed Democratic nominee:

Aronchick, 59, a yoga devotee, sees the transition through a Zen lens.

“Negative energy, despondency and despair are a completely unproductive waste of time,” he says in his office at Hangley, Aronchick, Segal & Pudlin. Twenty-seven floors above Logan Circle, it commands a stunning view of the city.

“Everybody needs to take a big, deep, yogic cleansing breath. Settle down, look at what’s great going on around you, then get rolling. I’m a big believer in forward movement and disengaging from negative emotions.

“The hard part is seeing a person who would have been one of the most remarkable presidents we ever had, not get it. She would have been a better president than her husband, and he was a good president.”

Aronchick continues: “Fortunately, we have a really good guy to go work for. . . . That doesn’t mean I’ve eliminated disappointment or wistful thinking. That probably will always be there.”

Alan Kessler, 57, also on Clinton’s finance committee and a partner at Wolf, Block, Schorr & Solis-Cohen, needs a serious break before backing a new pony.

“I think some of us are just fatigued,” he says. “We essentially went to war with Hillary Clinton. . . . After doing this so passionately for so long, it’s a matter of catching your breath….

To get there this time, Kessler stresses the party before the person in his pitch. He focuses on such issues as choice, and the importance of having a Democrat appoint justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Everybody knows I think Hillary would make a much better president. How can I go back and say Obama can do that? If they ask, I can say she will always be . . . better, but she’s not the nominee. I’m not trying to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes.”

Aronchick meanwhile, says he’s commited to getting the word out in the Jewish community. And he “deplores” the attempt to make Israel a wedge issue. He cited former Pa. Sen. Rick Santorum’s recent op-ed.

“I can’t imagine a mainstream thinker about the Middle East who would want anything else or need any more proof about his bone fide commitment to Israel,” he said of Obama.

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