Does a Good Jew Vote for Obama?

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb explains why she joined "Rabbis for Obama" and why Obama's campaign isn't at fault for including her on the list.

Since the Obama campaign revealed this week its list of over 600 "Rabbis for Obama," various players were going through the list, trying to figure out how influential these people are (JTA mentioned 10 of the rabbis were on Newsweek's list of "2012 America's top 50 Rabbis"), while the conservative groups and the Republican Jewish Coalition chose to focus on Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, founder of Shomer Shalom Institute for Jewish Nonviolence, who visited Iran twice in 2009, and participated last year in a "Move over AIPAC" conference in Washington.

The Republican Jewish Coalition accused the Obama campaign of "embracing radical rabbis" and called for her removal from the list. RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said in a statement "there can be only two explanations for her inclusion in the list: either the Obama campaign failed to properly vet the rabbis on their official list, or they did properly vet the rabbis and chose to ignore Rabbi Gottlieb's radical views. "The fact that the campaign announced Rabbi Gottlieb's participation in "Rabbis for Obama" at around the same time that it was announced that former President Jimmy Carter, who has met with Hamas members and has been a virulent critic of Israel - will speak at the Democratic Convention, highlights not only the insensitivity of the Obama campaign to the concerns of the Jewish community, but also underscores why President Obama has seen a significant erosion of support among Jewish voters," RJC said.

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb told "Haaretz" she hasn't been contacted by the Obama campaign yet ("They may, I don't know what they will do") and that she joined the list through the Internet. "Anyone could join I guess," she said. "I am not sure how exactly it was compiled. As for the RJC call - this is unfortunate that Jewish people are playing into the kind of hateful conversation around that the rest of the Republican Party is engaging in. Unfortunately, it's all about party politics, not about any substantive issue. 80 percent, maybe as much as 85 percent of Jewish people are Democrats. And within the remaining 15 percent - I would say 5 percent are to the left of Democrats. Jews who support the Republican Party are - using the same language as they did - really marginal members of the Jewish community in terms of their politics."

Why did you join the list despite the fact that in the past you been critical of Obama's policy on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

"I would rather live under a Democratic presidency and administration than a Republican one. The Democratic Party is more aligned with my values. American Jews are making a decision as to whom to vote for president on a large number of issues, including domestic policy, economics, attitudes toward healthcare, education - issues which affect people here in the U.S., and on that basis I support Obama."

Why did you visit Iran and take part in a dinner hosting the Iranian president in New York?

"I did lead two civilian diplomacy interfaith delegations to Iran and met the Jewish community of Iran in 2009. One had 10 Jewish people and 4 Christians, the other - two Jewish people. Our point of view was that when the two countries governments are increasing level of their hostilities - this organization and other grassroots citizen-based organizations try to create relationships in civil society that are more peace-oriented. In Israel for example there is a large grassroots campaign going on now - "Israel loves Iran." Ehud Barak mentioned that he estimated 500 Israeli citizens would die. Where he came up with that number, I have no idea. But he is prepared to sacrifice 500 Israelis. Do Israelis think this it is a good idea to attack Iran? I do not think so. Neither does the military establishment from what I am reading, nor do the citizens. So I am wondering where it comes from.

As for the dinner with the Iranian President - I was in the room with 350 people for an event that the Iranian mission to the U.S. sponsored in Ramadan. It was a meal, there were different religious leaders from many different religious organizations, and everyone who spoke condemned Ahmadinejad for his Holocaust denial and his statement about Israel disappearing from history - Every single speaker. You could look at this as an opportunity to say something to the president that we ordinarily could not say to his face. It provided people with an opportunity to express their displeasure at his policies while supporting an effort to lift up interreligious activity as a positive civil value."

But President Obama, who you support, said repeatedly that a nuclear Iran was unacceptable.

"We've been living with a nuclear Israel which used conventional weapons on people. We've been living with nuclear India, with nuclear Pakistan, nuclear United States. Do we want to live with any government having nuclear power? I don't think so. I personally do not want to live in a world with nuclear weapons, period. It's unfortunate that we have been valuing militarism and war over diplomacy and peacemaking. It's a choice, a human choice. War is not inevitable. It is a choice. Are we doing everything we can to prevent war? I would like to see all our politicians act differently in this regard."

President Barack Obama