The Orthodox Union’s leadership met privately today with Vice President Albert Gore in New York City.
During the forty minute meeting, one of several between the OU’s leadership and the Vice President, the OU leaders and Mr. Gore had a positive dialog covering a wide range of issues that concern the Orthodox community.
In presenting the Vice President with a commemorative kiddush cup, OU President Dr. Mandell I. Ganchrow expressed the OU’s support for the recent U.S. air strikes in Iraq and urged the administration to keep up the pressure on Saddam Hussein. Dr. Ganchrow also expressed the OU’s belief that Jews in the State of Israel should be permitted to freely travel and settle in Judea and Samaria and that the United States should not pressure Israel should it disagree with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s approach to the peace process. Vice President Gore emphasized the administration commitment to Israel and its determination to remain a strong and trusted ally while maintaining the U.S.’ ability – as requested by the Netanyahu government – to serve as a facilitator in the peace negotiations. Dr. Ganchrow then questioned why the Clinton-Gore administration had not begun the process of moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem when Congress has already appropriated $25 million for that move. The Vice President again emphasized that the U.S. must maintain its ability to facilitate negotiations between Israel and the Arab states, and that the timing of such a move would be closely coordinated with the Israeli government. Mr. Gore further noted that on these issues, in the context of the U.S. presidential election, the Jewish community is faced with a clear choice between a team that is has demonstrated that it is committed to a warm U.S.-Israel relationship and team whose commitment is much less clear.
On the domestic front, Nathan Diament, Director of the OU’s Institute for Public Affairs, asked Mr. Gore if the administration would support the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, introduced in the Senate last week by Senator John Kerry and to be introduced this week in the House. “This legislation,” Mr. Diament explained, “would require employers to accommodate the religious observances of their employees when such accommodation would not impose an undue financial burden on the employer.” The Vice President responded that the proposed legislation was the kind he would favor and stated that he would work to “fast track” its review and approval by the relevant Executive branch staff.
Professor Richard Stone, Chairman of the IPA, emphasized the OU’s support of the administration’s counter-terrorism efforts. He also expressed our concern over recent meetings between White House officials and members of Islamic American groups with ties to Hamas. Mr. Gore requested that the OU furnish his office with further information regarding these groups and stated that if links to Hamas were demonstrated, such meetings would certainly be cut off.
Professor Shimon Kwestel raised the OU’s long-standing concern over the inequitable sentence being served by Jonathan Pollard. The Vice President noted that the confidentiality of information upon which the President’s recent decision not to commute Pollard’s sentence has “made it difficult” for friendly groups such as the OU to have a constructive dialog with the administration with regard to this matter. Mr. Gore stated he would work to find a way to communicate the nature of this classified information to the OU community so that the dialog could proceed.
Mr. Jerry Gontownik raised our concern over reciprocity between the Israeli’s and Palestinians in honoring their commitments under the Oslo accords. The Vice President emphasized that the United States expects the Palestinians to honor their commitments and will rely upon Israel’s determination as to whether they are indeed doing so.
Finally, Mr. Marcel Weber, Chairman of the OU Board of Directors, noted our continued concern for the well being of Israeli soldiers missing in action. The Vice President stated that he and the administration are committed to resolving this painful dilemma as soon as possible.
After thanking Vice President Gore for meeting with the OU/IPA Washington Interns the past two summers, the meeting adjourned with warm wishes for a happy new year. Other OU leaders attending the meeting this morning were Mr. Julius Berman, Mr. Sheldon Rudoff, Mr. Howard Rhine, Mr. Harvey Blitz, Rabbi Menachem Genack, Ms. Betty Ehrenberg, OU Director of International Affairs & Communal Relations and Mr. Fred Ehrman.
The OU’s IPA is anxious to work with you in the interest of making a difference for Klal Yisrael, so please be in touch and let us know how we can help you run a successful campaign. You can contact the Institute for Public Affairs at (212) 613-8128 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org