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So Far, So Good: The Community's on Board With His Actions

May 7, 2009 By:
Marc R. Stanley
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During his first 100 days in office, the U.S. Jewish community has already taken great pleasure with the performance of President Barack Obama. He has begun to develop a deep and substantive relationship with the Jewish community by, among other things, hosting the first presidential seder, creating strong outreach with our community, and working on key domestic and international issues of interest to American Jews.

In less than four months, the Obama administration has made marked progress with progressive policies that are important to our community: the economy, Israel, the Middle East, reproductive rights, renewable energy and stem-cell research.

The aforementioned seder caused quite a buzz. Not only was it the first-ever presidential one, but it has become symbolic of the intimate and deep relationship our president has with our community (I must have received 50 photos of the seder from friends and family). Not only has Obama embraced one of our most important rituals, he has comforted us by including in his administration individuals with whom we have long-standing relationships. He has put together a dream team of excellent advisers and appointments, several of whom are members of our faith.

We are also grateful that the president has spoken out loudly against hate and intolerance. Last month, Obama spoke at the capital's Holocaust Days of Remembrance ceremony, and called on Americans to "contemplate the obligations of the living" and fight against "those who insist the Holocaust never happened, who perpetrate every form of intolerance." Earlier, under Obama's direction, the United States boycotted the vehemently anti-Semitic and anti-Israel United Nation's conference on racism known as Durban II.

Being a leader in the Jewish community under Obama's tenure means more than just being invited to Chanukah parties and events at the White House. The administration has already made a concerted effort to communicate with and involve the community in major policy decisions. For example, the administration briefed Jewish leaders on regular high-level conference calls during the formulation of policy toward Durban II.

The administration also invited community leaders to participate in an hourlong conference call with George Mitchell, U.S. special envoy to the Mideast. The dialogue was substantive, candid and meaningful. Those on the call were impressed by Mitchell's grasp of the issues and his attentiveness to participants' questions.

In these first 100 days, Obama's foreign policy has immeasurably improved the image of America abroad. Both those objectives and his domestic policy goals make Israel and America more secure. This includes moving the United States toward renewable energy and off dependence on Mideast oil.

On the domestic front, Obama has acted swiftly on critical issues and has revised some of President George W. Bush's damaged policies. On the economy, he has shown bold leadership to get America out of the current crisis, and create or save millions of jobs, provide tax relief and invest in our long-term economic security.

The president also ensured that we will not fall behind other leading nations in crucial areas of research and development by lifting the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. Exploring this burgeoning field will ensure that the United States expands its scientific frontier, as well as provide Americans with advanced medical treatments.

Obama also chose good policy over partisan politics when he struck down the infamous "global gag rule," which prohibited American money from funding international family-planning clinics. This provided life-saving health services to women, and also ensured counseling or referrals about services related to abortion.

We should not overstate the importance of these first 100 days; there are, after all, more than 1,300 days left in the president's first term. However, we are happy to say that the first 15 weeks alone have made us proud, and have fulfilled his promise of much-needed change for our country.

Marc R. Stanley is chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

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