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July 9, 2010 5:12 pm

What Will Bibi Tell Obama?

avatar by Dovid Efune

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Barack Obama with Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office. Photo: Pete Souza.

It appears that the rise and fall of Jewish leadership in both Israeli politics and American establishment is centered on who appears to best deal with the various hardships and challenges that face the Jewish state or the Diaspora’s Jewish communities.

While this may seem to be a compelling point of departure for voters and constituents, it is becoming more and more apparent that this may not be the best message for existing or would be Jewish leaders to carry.

In an interview with the Algemeiner over a year ago, one of the most respected Jewish thinkers of today, Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth Lord Jonathan Sacks told me as follows:

“The new generation of Jewish leaders is challenged to think differently about the Jewish future, to stop thinking of ourselves as victims, stop thinking of ourselves as the people that dwell alone and start thinking about Judaism as a way of life, as a faith and as an approach to the world,”

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He continued:

“We are the world’s oldest and most persistent victims, I don’t think anyone wants that message. If you tell a young generation of Jewish teenagers, we want you to know about Jewish history come to Auschwitz, Bergen Belsen and Treblinka and you’ll know what it is to be a Jew, then they will think 2 or 10 times before marrying another Jew and having Jewish children. Who wants to confer the status of victimhood onto their children and grandchildren?”

He concluded:

“I’m afraid we have been walking in precisely the wrong direction by focusing on all the negatives of recent Jewish history and the Jewish present and have failed to connect with the spirit. We have failed to connect with the positives and we have failed to connect with the message of Jews to humankind “through you will all the families of the earth be blessed”.”

His words are of utmost relevance as Israel and Jews around the world are continuously faced with immense external hostility and internal division and indifference, and young Jews around the world look to our leaders for direction, guidance and compelling solutions.

On Tuesday Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister who has been regarded as the most influential Jew in the world, will meet with Barack Obama, who many regard as the most influential person in the world. The big question is what message he will be conveying.

A recent article published by the Hartmann institute rightly pointed out that when President Obama wanted to address the future of the Middle East he did so from Cairo and not from Jerusalem. When he wanted to “meet” us, he went to Auschwitz. It is clear that Obama has yet to be exposed to the narrative of hope that Judaism carries, ironic, as hope was a central element of his own message.

As the article continues to suggest, Netanyahu would do well to “stop trying to present arguments which prove that we are right and instead present ideas which prove that we are smart. It is in his power to return hope and vision to Israeli politics.”

Of course security needs should not be ignored, but they must be addressed with creative ideas and visionary policies that look to a future and bind the Jewish and American people through bearing the Jewish message of hope to humankind, together it is time to reclaim our identity as leaders in the ongoing endeavor to build a better world.

The Author is the director of the Algemeiner Journal and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at defune@gjcf.com

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