- The Orthodox Union welcomed President Obama’s rollout Thursday of his Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships: We appreciate that President Obama has rejected those who’’ve called for the dismantling of this initiative begun under President Bush and those who would insist that religious voices and values have no place in America’’s public policy debates.
- No other Jewish group has officially weighed in yet on the fact that the White House order setting up the office did not outlaw fuding recipients from taking religion into account when hiring, as some critics of the office had hoped. Instead, it implemented a vehicle for legal review of such constitutional questions. Americans United for the Separation of Chuch and State did issue a statement , and they weren’t happy: “I am very disappointed that President Obama’s faith-based program is being rolled out without barring evangelism and religious discrimination in taxpayer-funded programs,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “It should be obvious that taxpayer-funded religious bias offends our civil rights laws, our Constitution and our shared sense of values.”
- Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism Rabbi David Saperstein did issue a statement reacting to his appointment to the president’s faith-based advisory council. A critic of the faith-based office in the Bush administration, Saperstein did emphasize thatthe appointment would "enhance the Reform Movement’s ability to speak out publicly and robustly, both when we agree and disagree with the White House’s policies."
- Julia Duin of the Washington Times says that the president got his Jewish texts mixed up yesterday: "At one point, the new president said, in his National Prayer Breakfast speech this morning, "The Torah commands, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow." " That is not in the Torah, aka the Old Testament. It’s from the Talmud, specifically a quote from Rabbi Hillel in the tractate of Shabbos. (But in his recitation of each religion’s version of the Golden Rule, Obama did use the traditional Christian-Jewish-Muslim sequence.) UPDATED: A commenter notes that Obama was likely using the term "Torah" in the broader sense, which includes both the Written Law (the Five Books of Moses) and the Oral Law, which includes the Talmud.)
- The National Jewish Democratic Council wished Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg a "full and speedy recovery" from pancreatic cancer surgery: "As a member of the U.S. Supreme Court, Ginsburg has been a strong supporter of women’s rights and civil liberties throughout her career."
- Democratic foreign policy hands say the foreign policy transition has been too chaotic and opaque, reports Politico: The climate of uncertainty has led prominent Obama advisors, including former Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer, to return to private life, people who have spoken to him said. Kurtzer declined to comment for this story.
- Politico says that a reporter who jumped the rope line to get an autograph from President Obama at the SCHIP bill signing has been identified as Robert Feuereisen of Jewish World Review, a New York-based Web site which features primarily conservative Jewish writers: "The editor of the Web site, Binyamin Jolkovsky, confirmed to Politico that Feuereisen gathers information for the site and that he was the journalist who asked for Obama’s autograph Wednesday. Feuereisen’s 12-year-old son had bought an inaugural magazine of some sort for $8, and ‘his kid just drove him crazy,’ said Jolkovsky. The editor said Feuereisen has been working in the White House for more than 10 years, and did not lose his credential in the incident, but received a warning not to do it again. ‘He’s harmless, to put it mildly,’ the editor said."
- Al Franken is asking a Minnesota court to allow him to serve in the Senate while the recount trial continues, reports the Associated Press: "Franken lawyer Marc Elias told the Minnesota Supreme Court that citizens are being deprived of their right to have two senators as Congress decides critical issues involving the economy and war and peace. He urged the justices to order that Franken be granted a certificate of election provisionally, while a special court decides Republican Norm Coleman’s challenge of the recount results."
- Jonathan Tobin, now at Commentary, notes that Jewish groups back the stimulus bill because it will provide funding for Jewish social service agencies — but that they shouldn’t claim the legislation will help the economy:"The notion that this money will get the country out of the recession is laughable and its authors know it. What it will do is help bail out a host of causes and groups, some of which we may approve and others we may not. Those national Jewish groups that lobby for the bill should do so honestly and tell us that they need the money. But the pretense that this is part of some grand economic solution is simply false."
Tidbits: Faith-based reaction, no position for Kurtzer? (UPDATED)