Keeping the Obama excitement burning


While much of Washington was partying Sunday and Monday, the leaders of the Jewish Grass Roots Action Network were working.

About 25 leaaders of the group put together an "action plan" laying out how they will go about choosing issues, and advocating for them, over the next four years. And then they partyed Monday evening, with about 100 people attending a kosher inaugural ball, complete with klezmer band, at D.C. synagogue Tifereth Israel Congregation.

The organization grew out of a "Jews for Obama" group — running the gamut from unaffiliated to Orthodox — which formed during the campaign. President Yocheved Seidman said she hopes to continue the activism that animated so many people over the last year, although she acknowledged that a campaign is always much more exciting to people than policy.

Obama "throughout the entire campaign said we can’t do this alone," she said, and her group hopes to advocate for issues that the president is pursuing when they advance Jewish values. She said the organization will decide over the coming months which areas they hope to focus on, and hopes to have a conference in Washington later in the year.

Assisting the group was New York Rabbi Yosef Blau, a spiritual adviser to Yeshiva University and president of the Religious Zionists of America. Blau, who wrote an influential article in the The Jewish Week last spring encouraging Jews to respond to Obama’s effort to reach out to the community, said he was helping the group to frame their issues around traditional Jewish values, from providing jobs to offering health care.

Blau didn’t endorse Obama, but noted in an interview — and later in a speech to the ball attendees — that he found similarities between "Obama’s sensibility and Jewish sensibility" on the issue of fighting evil. He noted that in the August forum at Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddelback Church, John McCain talked about how the United States must defeat the evil represented by the Iranian regime,

Obama, on the other hand, said that while the U.S. must contain Iran, "only God can defeat evil," said Obama — which Blau found to be "consistent with Jewish tradition."

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