Obama talks Middle East crises on Rosh Hashanah call with rabbis


WASHINGTON (JTA) — In his annual Rosh Hashanah call with American rabbis, President Obama focused on crises in the Middle East.

“He spoke about the complexities and dangers of the Middle East and the challenges facing the world,” said Rabbi William Gershon, one of two rabbis who posed questions to the president during the call. Gershon said there were 900 clergy who called in.

“In general, he spoke about seeking our help in domestic issues, and more importantly foreign policy issues,” said Gershon, the president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly and also senior rabbi at Congregation Shearith Israel in Dallas.

Gershon said he could not go into further detail, as the call was off the record.

In its statement describing the call, the White House said that Obama, as he has done in the past, began by “noting the important role of the American Jewish community in advancing key domestic priorities.”

Obama, the statement said, continued with a focus on the Middle East.

“He reaffirmed our efforts, working with allies, to degrade and destroy ISIL,” the jihadist group also known as Islamic State or ISIS, “his commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and our collective responsibility to respond to the sharp increase in global anti-Semitism,” the statement said.

“He also reaffirmed his unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security, his support for Iron Dome,” the anti-missile system Israel used to deflect rocket attacks during Israel’s war this summer with Hamas, “as well as his support of a sustainable peace through a two-state agreement.”

Also asking a question during the call was Rabbi Leonard Matanky, an Orthodox rabbi at Congregation K.I.N.S. of West Rogers Park in Chicago.

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