There is probably no race in the United States this cycle that has ignited (some might say inflamed) more passion in the Jewish & broader pro-Israel community than the Sestak-Toomey Senate race in Pennsylvania. Ever since Congressman Sestak defeated longtime pro-Israel stalwart (and one time Jewish Republican) Arlen Specter in June, this race has been the center of the universe for J-Street, Z street, the Emergency Committee for Israel & others.
Today, the OU entered the eye of the storm when we hosted Congressman Sestak meeting today with local Jewish leaders in Philadelphia. We’ve been hearing from members of the Jewish community questioning why we would host Sestak and not Congressman Toomey.
So let’s set the record straight:
1. We have an invitation out to Congressman Toomey & as soon as his campaign confirms a day & time with us, we look forward to hosting him for a similar discussion;
2. The OU is nonprofit, tax exempt organization. As such it is subject to strict IRS rules regarding political activities. Simply put, the OU could never endorse ANY candidate nor could the OU ever host one candidate only without at least providing the other candidate or candidates (so long as they are credible in the polls and stand a decent shot at winning) with an equal opportunity.
The fact that Mr. Sestak said yes first may speak more to internal political dynamics than anything else.
As an aside, for those interested, at the event, which we have videotaped and can be accessed shortly on our YouTube channel, the Congressman took direct questions from communal leaders on his Israel record, the Iranian threat as well as domestic issues of critical importance to the Orthodox community, including religious accommodation, homeland security & energy funding, and funding for education (including Jewish day schools).
Posted by Howie Beigelman