Monday, April 6, 2009

Obama's "Rabbi"

Rabbi Capers Funnye celebrated Martin Luther King Day this year in New York City at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, a mainstream Reform congregation, in the company of about 700 fellow Jews — many of them black. The organizers of the event had reached out to four of New York’s Black Jewish synagogues in the hope of promoting Jewish diversity, and they weren’t disappointed. African-American Jews, largely from Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens, many of whom had never been in a predominantly white synagogue, made up about a quarter of the audience. Most of the visiting women wore traditional African garb; the men stood out because, though it was a secular occasion, most kept their heads covered. But even with your eyes closed you could tell who was who: the black Jews and the white Jews clapped to the music on different beats.

Funnye, the chief rabbi of the Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in Chicago, one of the largest black synagogues in America, was a featured speaker that night. The overflowing audience came out in a snowstorm to hear his thoughts about two men: the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama. King is Funnye’s hero. Obama, whose inauguration was to take place the following day in Washington, is family — the man who married Funnye’s cousin Michelle.

A compact, serious-looking man in his late 50s, Funnye (pronounced fu-NAY) wore a dark business suit and a large gray knit skullcap. He sat expressionless, collecting his thoughts, as Joshua Nelson and his Kosher Gospel Band steamed through their sanctified rendition of the Hebrew hymn “Adon Olam.” Nelson, a black Jew, was raised in two Jewish worlds — a white Reform temple in New Jersey and a Black Jewish synagogue in Brooklyn — and he borrows from both. The first time the Rev. Al Sharpton heard a recording of Nelson’s “Adon Olam,” he said, “I can hear that’s Mahalia Jackson, but what language is she singing in?” [...]


  1. Recipients and PublicityApril 7, 2009 at 11:01 AM

    When it comes to his TRUE "religious" beliefs and affiliations it is hard to pin Obama down, but lest any person delude themselves, it is important to remember that Obama has cultivated strong ties with both Muslim and Christian groups, while he is known to be a socialist, all reflecting the fact that his mother came from a Christian family with strong socialist leanings, she then eloped and married not one, but two Muslim men, the first one from Kenya (Barack Hussein Obama's father) and the second from Indonesia (Lolo Soetero) and who gave his name to Barry Soetero aka Barrack Obama after he adopted him and then the family moved to Indonesia where Barry/Barack was schooled until his early teen years.

    Regarding Obama's connections to Islam:


    "The Obama File: Religion: The Witnesses:

    In "Dreams...," Obama himself recalls, "In the Muslim school, the teacher wrote to tell mother I made faces during Koranic studies."

    According to Tine Hahiyary, one of Obama's teachers and the principal from 1971 through 1989, Barry actively took part in the Islamic religious lessons during his time at the school. "I remembered that he had studied "mengaji" (recitation of the Quran)" Tine said.

    Obama's classmate Rony Amiris describes young Barry as enjoying playing football and marbles and of being a very devout Muslim. Amir said, "Barry was previously quite religious in Islam. We previously often asked him to the prayer room close to the house. If he was wearing a sarong he looked funny."

    Another classmate, Emirsyah Satar, CEO of Garuda Indonesia, was quoted as saying, "He (Obama) was often in the prayer room wearing a 'sarong', at that time. He was quite religious in Islam but only after marrying Michelle, he changed his religion."

    In an interview with the New York Times, Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama’s younger half sister, told the Times, "My whole family was Muslim, and most of the people I knew were Muslim"."

    Then the supposed moved to Christianity:

    "The Obama File: Religion: The Epiphany:

    When Obama first undertook his agitating work in Chicago's South Side poor neighborhoods, he was un-churched. Yet his office was in a Church and most of the folks he needed to agitate and organize were Church people -- pastors and congregants -- who took their churches and their church-going very seriously. Again and again, he was asked by pastors and church ladies, "Where do you go to Church, young man?"

    So, Obama finally joined a church, in part to deepen what one friend called "a whole web of relationships" in the community that gave him a strong political base and a well-connected mentor.

    In the paperback version of "The Audacity of Hope," in the chapter entitled "Faith," beginning on page 195, and ending on page 208, Obama is telling us that he doesn’t really have any profound religious belief, but that in his early Chicago days he felt he needed to acquire some spiritual "street cred"."

    And on to the involvement with Rev. Wright and Black Liberation Theology:

    "The Obama File: Religion: The Conversion & The Relationship [with Rev. Wright]

    Around 1988, Obama fell under the spell of a leftist black nationalist preacher, who preached African-American unity through antipathy toward whites. The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, who acts as Obama's personal spiritual adviser, is militantly Afrocentric. His website proudly claims, "We are an African people, and remain 'true to our native land,' the mother continent, the cradle of civilization."

    Wright, who married the Obamas, remains a major influence on the presidential candidate, despite their estrangement during the campaign. The title of Obama’s second book, The "Audacity of Hope," is borrowed from one of Wright’s sermons.

    Obama writes in "Dreams..." that the very first time he attended Trinity United Church, he heard Rev. Wright rant that "white folks' greed runs a world in need," and for the next twenty years Obama, his wife and subsequently, his children, would be a witness to Wright's racism and hate.

    When he took over Trinity United Church of Christ in 1972, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. was a maverick pastor with a wardrobe of dashikis and a militant message.

    Wright had grown up in Philadelphia, the son of a Baptist minister. he had resisted his father's vocation at first, joining the Marines out of college, dabbling with liquor, Islam, and black nationalism in the sixties. But the call of his faith had apparently remained, a steady tug on his heart, and eventually he'd entered Howard, then the University of Chicago, where he spent six years studying for a Ph.D. in the history of religion.

    He graduated from Howard University and earned bachelor's and master's degrees in English with a focus on African spirituals. At the University of Chicago Divinity School, he earned another masters degree in the history of religions with a focus on Islam.

    In a Trinity church bulletin, Rev. Wright penned the following: "Most of our members do not know that my Master’s Degree from the University of Chicago’s Divinity School was in the area of Islam in West Africa during the 19th Century -- when the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was at its zenith."

    Ben Wallace-Wells notes in Rolling Stone: "This is as openly radical a background as any significant American political figure has ever emerged from."

    Obama chose this minister and his church very carefully. He "could have picked any church -- the spare, spiritual places in Hyde Park, the awesome pomp and procession of the cathedrals downtown. He could have picked a mosque, for that matter, or even a synagogue. Obama chose Trinity United. He picked Jeremiah Wright. Obama writes in his autobiography that on the day he chose this church, he felt the spirit of black memory and history moving through Wright, and 'felt for the first time how that spirit carried within it, nascent, incomplete, the possibility of moving beyond our narrow dreams.'"

    In August, 2008, New York Magazine did a special issue on race and the US election. There’s lot of good stuff in the package but this line from John Heilemann’s cover story stood out to me:

    "In October, Obama’s former pastor, (Jeremiah) Wright, will publish a new book and hit the road to promote it."

    This is a huge problem for Obama. It means that the whole controversy over Wright’s racialist sermons and his friendship with Obama is going to be returning to the news agenda just as undecided voters begin to make up their minds.

    There is much confusion surrounding the date of Obama's conversion. Newspaper reports place this event in 1988. On Fox News, March 14th, 2007, Obama himself placed this even in 1992, but continues to say he's been a Christian for 20 years -- you figure it out.

    Nobody, except Obama knows if his conversion to Christianity is real or not. Although some reports and even Obama have referred to a "baptism", there doesn't appear to be any record of a baptism.

    Chicago-based journalist, broadcaster and critic Andy Martin, when asked about Obama's baptism, wrote, "I have never been able to obtain any evidence that he was baptized, although I asked for those records."

    It seems that Obama's conversion occurred when he answered one of Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright's altar calls by walking down the aisle of Trinity Church to make a formal commitment of his faith.

    Cathleen Falsani, religion columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, writes, "He (Obama) described his conversion experience in his mid-20s, how he walked the aisle at Trinity United Church of Christ one Sunday in a public affirmation of his private change of heart."

    "I came to Christianity through the black church tradition where the line between evangelical and non-evangelical is completely blurred. Nobody knows exactly what it means."

    "Does it mean that you feel you've got a personal relationship with Christ the savior? Then that's directly part of the black church experience. Does it mean you're born-again in a classic sense, with all the accoutrements that go along with that, as it's understood by some other tradition? I'm not sure."

    "There are aspects of Christian tradition that I'm comfortable with and aspects that I'm not. There are passages of the Bible that make perfect sense to me and others that I go, 'Ya know, I'm not sure about that.'"

    "It wasn't an epiphany," he says of that public profession of faith. "It was much more of a gradual process for me. I know there are some people who fall out. Which is wonderful. God bless them...I think it was just a moment to certify or publicly affirm a growing faith in me."

    The specifically political character of his new church is what drew Obama out of his skeptical isolation and into religion. Obama wrote:

    "But as the months passed in Chicago, I found myself drawn to the church."

    "For one thing, I believed and still believe in the power of African-American religious tradition to spur social change...the black church understands in an intimate way the biblical call to feed the hungry and cloth the naked and challenge the powers and principalities...I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death; it is an active, palpable agent in the world. It is a source of hope."

    "It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and affirm my Christian faith."

    In other words, Obama’s membership at Trinity UCC resulted from his familiarity with Wright’s political views. Even Obama’s phrase “challenge the powers and principalities” is a particular favorite of black-liberation theologists.

    Falsani warns us that Obama’s walking the aisle at Trinity is poles apart from what Christians commonly refer to as being "saved, transformed or washed in the blood." In other words, it’s not to be confused with what Jesus called being "born again." As Mr. Obama himself explains, "It wasn’t an epiphany … but just a moment to certify or publicly affirm a growing faith in me."

    In another account of this event, Manya Brachear, writing in the Chicago Tribune, describes the event thusly: "When Obama sought his own church community, he felt increasingly at home at Trinity. Before leaving for Harvard Law School in 1988, he responded to one of Wright's altar calls and declared a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Falsani wonders, "What kind of faith is it that is growing in Barack Obama? Is it the historic Christian faith? Not according to the good senator, who describes his faith as: (1) Suspicious of dogma (2) Without any monopoly on the truth (3) Nontransferable to others (4) Infused with a big healthy dose of doubt, and (5) Indulgent of and compatible with all other religions."

    Unlike traditional Christianity, which Mr. Obama bemoans for its "call to evangelize and proselytize," the good senator’s faith is strictly a personal and private affair. Although he has no qualms about parading it in public in hopes of bolstering his political career, he would never dream of preaching it to others in hopes of converting them to Christ.

    At the core of Obama's faith -- whether lapsed Muslim, new Christian or some mixture of the two -- is African nativism. Obama's having pledged allegiance to the Black Value System raises political issues of its own.

    Request for info: If anyone, anywhere, can validate Obama's baptism, please contact me [the editor of 'The Obama File'] via email with a source, link or other documentation."

  2. Recipients and PublicityApril 12, 2009 at 11:43 PM

    The Obamas attend seder in White House. Instead of "Next year in Jerusalem, he jokes "next year in the White House."

    From Arutz

    A White House Passover with President Obama

    Nisan 16, 5769, 10 April 09
    by Hana Levi Julian


    U.S. President Barack Obama invited friends and staff members to a Seder at the White House on Thursday night to mark the second night of the Passover holiday in what is believed to be a "first" for the executive mansion. President Jimmy Carter attended a Seder in 1979 at the Washington home of adviser Stuart Eizenstat.

    The Jewish service at the table was led by Eric Lesser, a campaign aide. First Lady Michelle Obama and the couple's two daughters also attended the special meal, believed by aides to be the first attended by a president.

    Earlier in the day, Obama signed a letter that wished Jewish Americans "a peaceful and relaxing holiday" and noted that the story of the Jews' Passover flight from Egypt was "among the most powerful stories of suffering and redemption in human history."

    Obama added, "As part of a larger global community, we all must work to ensure that our brothers and sisters of every race, religious culture and nationallity are free from bondage and repression, and are able to live in peace." He ended the letter with the Hebrew holiday greeting, chag sameach ("happy holiday" - ed.).

    The Seder, which included the reading of the traditional religious text, the Haggadah, also featured the regular seder plate, with its roasted egg, matzah, bitter herbs and greens.

    It is not the first time that this First Family has attended a Seder, and many of this year's guests were at the table last year in the Sheraton hotel in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for a Seder during the campaign. Taking a page from the Haggadah's closing wish of "Next year in Jerusalem," Obama and others had jokingly added, "Next year in the White House," according to an official.

    However, the administration's two top observant Jewish aides said they would not be able to be there: White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel did not come to dinner, and senior adviser David Axelrod planned to be with his own family in Chicago.

    Kudos From the Jewish Sector
    National Jewish Democratic Council deputy executive president Alexis C. Rice praised Obama lavishly in response to the news he would hold a Seder, saying it proved "Obama is a true friend of the Jewish community."

    William Daroff, head of the Washington office of the United Jewish Communities organization, said the move "speaks to the inclusiveness of today's America and of President Obama. This night is indeed different from all other nights."

    Various media also viewed the celebration as a sign that the new president would invest much in a close relationship with his Jewish supporters.

    The week-long Passover holiday began Wednesday at sundown."

  3. He's also an associate director for an organization call Be'chol Lashon ( The presence of such an organization should be interesting (and more than a little worrisome)to you, R' Eidensohn, given your running interest in issues regarding Jewish status. See below for some hair-raising reading.

    From the website -

    Vision: A Global Jewish People

    Imagine a new global Judaism that transcends differences in geography, ethnicity, class, race, ritual practice, and beliefs. Discussions about “who-is-a-real-Jew” will be replaced with celebration of the rich, multi-dimensional character of the Jewish people.

    Jews around the world face serious demographic challenges. Worldwide, the number of Jews is stagnant. Decimated by the Holocaust, Jews now comprise only 0.2% of the world's people. We believe the Jewish population, through pro-active efforts, could grow to 20 million by 2020, and 40 million by 2060.

    We seek to overcome the significant organizational, cultural and ideological barriers to growth in the Jewish community. A more expansive Judaism is particularly engaging for younger and unaffiliated Jews who want Judaism to reflect the global community in which they live.

    Be'chol Lashon (In Every Tongue) grows and strengthens the Jewish people through ethnic, cultural, and racial inclusiveness. We advocate for the diversity that has characterized the Jewish people throughout history, and through contemporary forces including intermarriage, conversion and adoption. We foster an expanding Jewish community that embraces its differences.

  4. Recipients and PublicityMay 1, 2009 at 12:04 PM

    Here's what the Jews' rabbi told Obama's American Ambassador to Israel...Will he take the advice? Probably not, but then again, who knows...?As reported on Dei'ah veDibur, 5 Iyar 5769 - April 30, 2009:

    "US Ambassador to Israel Meets With HaRav EliashivBy Yechiel Sever

    US Ambassador to Israel James B. Cunningham, paid a visit, along with Alex Daniels director of the American Cultural Center, and an entourage, to the home of Maran HaRav Eliashiv shlita, following a request by the Ambassador to hear Maran's remarks on the state of Israel and the needs of the chareidi community. HaRav Yosef Efrati was also on hand for the visit.

    The meeting was held eight months after Cunningham assumed his post. At the start of the visit the Ambassador told HaRav Eliashiv via Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Rabbi Yitzchok Pindrus, serving as interpreter, that he had come to get to know the chareidi community and learn about its needs. In response HaRav Eliashiv said, "Merubim tzorchei amcho" (i.e. "Your nation's needs are numerous," paraphrasing Brochos 29b).

    The Ambassador then asked for any advice HaRav Eliashiv might offer to help him carry out his many responsibilities. Maran replied that if he strives to do good and work for the sake of the Jewish people he would succeed, adding that everything depends on good will.

    When Cunningham asked which matters need to be addressed, HaRav Eliashiv noted the state of security is cause for deep concern, saying the residents of Eretz Hakodesh are in constant danger.

    The Ambassador replied that the issue of security is of concern to President Obama as well, saying Israel's security is among the President's top priorities.

    When asked for a brochoh at the end of the visit HaRav Eliashiv blessed him for success in his post and that he have the merit to act for the sake of the residents of Eretz Kodesh.

    The visit was coordinated through the efforts of R' Mattisyahu Cheshin, who works extensively to promote Jewish affairs through the US Embassy in Israel."


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