Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Talking With Obama’s ‘Radical’ Rabbi

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, a pacifist, pulls no punches

Print Email
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb at the Jewish Muslim Interfaith Prayer Walk for Peace in New Mexico in 2002.(Cary Herz/Getty Images)

The Republican Jewish Coalition has leveled an attacked against the President’s “Rabbis for Obama” campaign, for which some 600 rabbis signed up online to declare their support for his re-election efforts, specifically targeting Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, whom the RJC calls ‘radical.’

Gottlieb has said and done much that would put her at odds with President Obama’s foreign policy. She supported a boycott of Israeli products and she is firmly opposed to military action against Iran. She did dine in a very large room with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at an event where, she explained, “everyone who spoke condemned Ahmadinejad for his Holocaust denial and his statement about Israel disappearing from history.”

So when I spoke to her yesterday, I thought to flip the question around. Not, why would Obama want her controversial support, but rather why would she want to support a president whose foreign policy views are anathema to her. Here’s what she told me:

As a rabbi, this is a much broader perspective than his specific policies toward Israel and Iran. Within that context of looking at his domestic policy and his foreign policy, as an American citizen, I do not support another Middle Eastern war. I didn’t support the war in Iraq, I didn’t support the war in Afghanistan, and I don’t support a war with Iran.

On President Obama’s detractors:

The fact that Republicans are hyperbolizing around Obama in so many arenas. They have an extensive hasbara–if you like, to quote Obama–he’s a Muslim, he wasn’t born in this country, picking on American racism, accusing him of being a Socialist. Accusing him of being anti-Israel is the way that Republican Jews are supporting the overall Republican effort to delegitimize President Obama. Shame on them.

On whether President Obama and Governor Romney’s positions on Israel are distinguishable:

It’s hard to know how they would react in the next term to realize on the ground situations. I don’t think either of them particularly want to go to war with Iran. It’s very hard to sort out election hyperbole from their more rational statecraft.

Do you still believe the United States should engage with Iran?

Nothing has changed my mind that ongoing diplomacy is a good idea in opposition to war. Nothing changes my mind about that. I am, after all, a pacifist.

Based on President Obama’s first term, why would you support him?

The larger question is whether I would rather live under a Democratic or Republican administration. When people vote for president, they’re not just voting for President Obama, they’re voting for a platform that’s being put forward by the Democratic Party. There’s so much reductionism that happens in conversation about many issues of policy that people are using fear tactics to force people to vote a certain way.

So as a Jewish American, really as Lynn Gottlieb, as someone who identifies and has served the Jewish community in various capacities for the past 40 years, I prefer the climate of a Democratic administration. It feels like we have more access. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to organize to fight for the things we believe in, such as a living wage, such as more focus on education and college students and many other things that need to go better under a Democratic administration. I’m certainly not going to agree with everything the administration says.

She also pushed back against the word “extreme” used in the RJC ad to describe her or the group Jewish Voice for Peace, which she explained has 120,000 people on its list serve.

The idea that the Republican Jewish Coalition speaks for the Jewish community is on its face absurd since a vast majority of Jews are not Republican and don’t support Republican values.

How would you feel if the Obama campaign removed you from the list:

It would not bug me. Not really. I think it’s unfortunate that we can’t really be a big tent and that we have to draw lines in the sand about very specific tactics and then hyperbolize about it. The use of the language ‘delegitimize Israel’ or ‘anti-Semite.’ It’s a shame the democratic and progressive side of Judaism stands for that. We should just say we’re a big tent. Period. We have a lot of different perspectives, but we all have the well-being of the people of Israel in mind. But I would not take it personally.

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

gemel says:

“The use of the language ‘delegitimize Israel’ or ‘anti-Semite.’ It’s a shame the democratic and progressive side of Judaism stands for that.”

Unfortunately, she does stand for that, she does delegitimize Israel. Her actions make me doubt that she has the well-being of the Jewish people or Israel as her priority, except if it they meet her political and ideological goals. And that seems also to be the case for her group, Jewish Voice for Peace.

She is an advocate of the destruction of Israel. And the death and dispersion of the Jews therein. There is no denying that.

    I highly doubt she wants anyone to die.

      “Want’s” anyone to die? You’re probably right, she likely doesn’t want that. But the important thing to note is that by her very actions she makes such an outcome more likely. I can’t fathom whether she is willfully blind to that eventuality — blinded by her own ideology and world view — or if she is truly ignorant of geopolitical cause and effect relationships. Either way, it makes her a danger to Israel, and by extension, Jews everywhere.

I wouldn’t attend that shul.

    Lynn Gottlieb has no shul. She has a listserv of those who really believe all of Israel is an illegal settlement, that Iran is just joking around. THIS is what has become the base of the Democratic Party, which I no longer recognize.

there are some American Jews who would vote for a Hitler before a Republican.
How come there are jews for Obama but NO ministers, nuns, priests or reverends for Obama?

There is nothing in the Jewish Voices for Peace agenda that promotes “peace”. Supporting the BDS initiative, as Norm Finkelstein noted, and as BDS’ers themselves have admitted, is simply an attempt to eradicate Israel by more insidious means.

I find it astounding that with all the injustices perpetrated in the world, THIS, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, is the only one that matters. Yet I wouldn’t be nearly so outraged by it all if ONLY she and people like her, would reasonably find fault with the Palestinians. But we hear not one iota of criticism from this camp.

I’m really sick of hearing that Israel, and by extension Jews, are the only bad actors in all this. And Gottlieb, a so-called “pacifist” is one of many who takes that view.

It’s difficult to respect someone like that.

jean -pierre katz says:

The Obama campaign seems to have no clue as to which rabbis would enhance the president’s clout among Jewish voters, and which are political hemlock. It’s newly formed “Rabbis for Obama” group, with rabbis from almost 40 states, includes some of the most enthusiastic supporters of sanctions against the Jewish state, including the Jewish Voice for Peace whose leadership is star-studded with names like Chava Bahle, Suttons Bay, MI, Rachel Evelyne Barenblat, Lanesboro, MA, Haim Beliak, Los Angeles, Lynn Gottlieb, Berkeley, Linda Holtzman, Philadelphia, Rebecca Lillian, Chicago, David Mivasair, State College, PA, and Brant Rosen, Evanston, IL. To date, nothing has helped to better define Obama as the most anti-Israel president since Jimmy Carter.

Sylvia3 says:

Some of those Rabbis for Obama founded Taanit Tzedek – a call to Fasting for Gaza while their Jewish brothers (those they made invisible) were suffering daily rocket attacks from Gaza.
The same people pushed Presbyterians to vote for divestment. Not to mention their consistently denigrating Jews and debasing Judaism day in day out on their websites.
Note the declared number of “613 Rabbis” in the group suggesting that each one of them is a Mitzvah to be followed.
She has the well-being of the people of Israel in mind? I find it very hard to believe.

Beatrix17 says:

In this world it’s hard to be against war under any
circumstances and still be moral. Hoping to attain eventual pacifism
is moral so long as you admit that sometimes it’s necessary to fight

The winner of a war is naturally going to be more
powerful and so sympathy is extended to the losers even if they
caused the war.

The Palestinian problem is not with Israel, but with
their leadership. Arafat knew how to fight an insurrection, but not
how to run a nation. Abbas was his propagandist. He tells you what
you want to hear, and seems great for awhile until you realize that
everything you say and do becomes gist for his propaganda mill.
Abbas has no more idea of how to lead a country than Arafat did, yet
this is the man who not only wants to lead Palestine, but Israel as

Supporting this is moral?

neils60 says:

In my research about Lynn G., I noticed how she so weakly dismisses the strong 20 year bond and connection of President Obama with Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, et al.
I’m not so certain that she’s done her homework on these and some other substantive issues? Or, maybe, she just doesn’t care very much what’s stated, as long as it fits her message? However, one thing that I do know is that she makes a very good case for voting for Messrs. Romney and Ryan. As a matter of fact, the entire “moonbat” community makes a very good case for voting for the Romney/Ryan ticket.

When you are kind to those that are cruel, you will end up being cruel to those that are kind.

Ms. Gottlieb fasts for Gaza and dines with Iranian leaders in a misguided effort to bring peace to the Israel and the world. They do not share her values. She is the type that would want to talk “Peace” with the likes of Hitler. They laugh and scorn.
Anybody can call themselves a Rabbi or speak in the name of Judaism. Why does she get so much press?
She is at best an embarrassment and and a fool.

American Jews vote for a man who goes to a church for 20 years says the Rev. was a great influence in his life. Rev. Wright who taught hate of Israel hate the Jews Hate America.I say there is something mentally wrong with this.with people ignoring these facts. Even the PLO recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But not Many in the Democratic Party .the Democratic Party has become the anti-Semitic party of America and anti-religions

She’s a communist, a self-hating Jew, and she’s butt-ugly. In 2008, she had dinner with Ahmadinejad. In Iran. Now she’s attacking the Stones for their upcoming performances in Jerusalem. Maybe she’d like to take Jagger’s place and sing “Please allow me to introduce myself.”
But those who conflate Obama with the BDS idiots aren’t any smarter than Gottlieb (who should change her name to Teufellieb). Bush and Cheney didn’t send the Navy S.E.A.L.S to kill Bin-Laden. Bush and Cheney aren’t picking off Islamic terrorists one by one with drones.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Talking With Obama’s ‘Radical’ Rabbi

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, a pacifist, pulls no punches

More on Tablet:

Rediscovering the First Woman Rabbi

By Laura Geller — Ordained in 1935, Regina Jonas died at Auschwitz. Now, she’s being honored.