Posted on September 22, 2010 In Press Releases

Orthodox Union facilitates key meeting in Lower Merion; Israel, Iran, education, religious liberty are all discussed

Yesterday, Pennsylvania’s Republican candidate for the open US Senate seat, Pat Toomey, met with leading synagogue rabbis, day school and community leaders representing Pennsylvania’s Orthodox Jewish community. The meeting, facilitated by the Orthodox Union (Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella group had the former three term congressman and president of the Club for Growth in dialogue with the communal leadership on a range of issues, including the looming Iranian threat, Israel and her neighbors in the Mideast, education equity for all students and schools, and accommodation of religious needs in the workplace.

Rabbi Yonah Gross of Congregation Beth Hamedrosh, an Orthodox Union member synagogue said:

“I am constantly amazed at the access that the OU has. It was wonderful having such an intimate and down to earth conversation with someone of such stature. Than you to the OU for giving us this opportunity.”

Regarding Iran, Mr. Toomey stated the current regime was an existential threat to Israel and thinks we waited too long to impose sanctions, that “the most aggressive possible sanctions” should have been imposed years ago and that as well, America’s “moral voice” was needed to support the pro-democracy movement in Iran, as it had been during the Cold War for those in the Soviet bloc.

Rabbi Avraham Shmidman of the Lower Merion Synagogue stated:

“From Israel & Iran to education & religious liberty, Pat Toomey spoke to us & engaged our leaders on issues near and dear to our community.We thank him for speaking with us – and if elected we look forward to working with him on issues of concern to our community and people.”

On Israel, he expressed optimism on the current round of peace talks, but cautioned that there is “No evidence [Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud] Abbas is preparing the Palestinian people for the compromises needed” to secure a lasting peace. “History is very clear,” he stated “Too often concessions [by Israel] have not been met on the other side.” In response to a question from one of the leaders present, Mr. Toomey explained that while it was true he had voted against seven foreign aid bills that included aid to Israel, he did support foreign aid generally and especially defensive aid to Israel, and that if it had been a “stand alone” bill regarding aid to Israel he would “gladly have voted for it.” His concerns over certain types of foreign aid to undemocratic regimes led him to vote against those foreign aid bills.

Noting that in his book, the Road to Prosperity he devoted an entire chapter to school choice, he responded to a question regarding the issue that he was open to many types of efforts on school choice, and though he was not sure a federal tax credit similar to Pennsylvania’s bi-partisan EITC program (of which the Orthodox Union and others are strong and avid supporters, as it has enabled Jewish day schools to raise millions of dollars for scholarships) but he did support using federal education dollars to “create incentives for choice” at the state level.

Finally, when asked about the sometimes conflicting needs of employers and employees over accommodating religious needs such as dress (beards, kipot, headscarves etc.) or time off for prayer or a Sabbath/holiday, the former restaurateur and current bank chairman stated he was open to reviewing legislation such as the Workplace Religious Freedom Act but would need to ensure that it strikes an “appropriate balance.”

Pat Toomey (Left) meets Rabbi Avraham Shmidman, Lower Merion Synagogue; Rabbi Yonah Gross, Congregation Beth HaMedrosh; Rabbi Yitz Levi, Philadelphia City Coordinator, Atlantic Seaboard NCSY; and Mr. Shlomo Troodler, Lower Merion Synagogue Youth Chair.

Leading synagogue rabbis, day school and community leaders engaging Mr. Toomey in conversation regarding Israel, education and the economy.

Pennsylvania’s Republican candidate for US Senate, Pat Toomey, with leading synagogue rabbis, day school and community leaders representing Pennsylvania’s Orthodox Jewish community

Howie Beigelman, OU Deputy Director of Public Policy said:
“Pat Toomey was open & direct. He told us where he stood, even if it meant a polite disagreement. We thank him for his outreach and look forward to a partnership on areas of concern if he wins the seat.”

“Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet with the Orthodox Union and discuss the critical issues facing the Jewish community,” U.S. Senate candidate Pat Toomey said. “I strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself, imposing the toughest possible sanctions on Iran, and expanding school choice opportunities in this country. I appreciate the time and opportunity to share my support for Israel and the Pennsylvania Jewish community and the insightful discussion about some of the most pressing issues our country faces today.”

This meeting is part of a nationwide effort by the IPA to facilitate discussion between our community leadership and candidates for office. The OU has a long history of elected officials, candidates for public office and other notables speaking to their leadership, including Samuel Alito, Sherrod Brown, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chris Christie, Alberto Gonzalez, Al Gore, Tom Kean, Jr., Carl Levin, Robert Menendez, George Pataki, Rick Perry, Dean Skelos, Bill Thompson and numerous members of Congress in recent years as well as surrogates of both McCain-Palin and Obama-Biden during the 2008 presidential election. The OU is a non-profit, non-partisan organization and therefore does not endorse nor support candidates. The OU also met with Democratic nominee, Congressman Joe Sestak, to have a similar meeting.