By Cara Hogan
Since Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin was named the Republican V.P. nominee, the Jewish community has been eager to learn her views on Israel and Jewish issues. Some have questioned the values of her church after a Jews for Jesus representative gave a sermon there, but her supporters laud her as a friend to the Jews.
The Advocate spoke with Rabbi Yosef Greenberg, director of the Lubavitch Jewish Center in Anchorage, Alaska, about his acquaintance with Palin.
The Jewish Advocate: How well do you know Sarah Palin?
Rabbi Greenberg: Sarah Palin attended many of our Jewish events when she was mayor and later when she was running for governor. We had Jewish cultural galas each year and she danced with the women. We have mutual friends and we have members of our Jewish community who live in her town, so we know a lot about her. When I saw her once, we discussed her special needs child who had just been born. She said every child is a blessing from God and I was very impressed.
JA: What do you think of Palin as a candidate and a person?
RG: As a rabbi I cannot endorse either Obama or Palin. The only thing I could say because I’ve known the governor for several years is she’s a very good friend of the Jews. She’s very respectful of the Jewish people and very interested in the well-being of Israel.
I’m not talking about policies and so on, but on a personal level she’s a good and capable person. She has good intentions and she’s honest and sincere. She worked very much with the Democratic side of the aisle.
I’m not a political analyst. I’m sure Obama is good to the Jews as well. But I would describe her as very smart, energetic, very respectful to others [and] always there to help.
JA: Why do you say Obama would also be good for the Jews?
RG: I’m sure Obama will be as good for the Jews and Israel as Sarah Palin after hearing a member of the Jewish community in Chicago, Ira Silverstein, speak warmly of him. He shared offices with Obama as a state senator and talked about how Obama was a “Shabbos Goy.” I was totally convinced that Obama would be as friendly to the Jews.
JA: Do you believe Palin’s religious beliefs will interfere with her serving the country?
RG: I didn’t see in the last two years that she pushed any of her religious beliefs in public. I think she’s smart enough and understands the world enough that her personal beliefs are personal.
She always came across as professional. People are entitled to their personal beliefs; it’s America.
JA: What sort of public positions have you seen Sarah Palin take on Israel prior to her nomination as Vice President?
RG: She had a resolution on Israel as governor, recognizing the Alaska Airlines role in airlifting 40,000 Jews from Yemen to Israel on the 60th anniversary of Israel.
JA: Do you think Sarah Palin’s social values are aligned with the social values of most American Jews?
RG: That’s up to interpretation: what are social values? When you look at the overall perspective of her personality and her morals, I believe they are inline with most Jews. I hope they are but I’m not sure. I’m sure her social values will be in line with some American Jews.
I know traditionally American Jews vote Democratic for many reasons, but that’s not in my area — the political analysis. I can only say from the point of view of someone who knows her as a person who is going to be good for the Jews.
JA: What do you think of the Jewish community’s response to both candidates?
RG: I don’t think the Jewish community worldwide should, right after she is nominated, say that she’s an anti-Semite. I think this is totally wrong. Just because Palin went to a rally, she became a Nazi and anti-Semite. This is not the way the Jewish community should act. There is a way to speak about world leaders in a responsible way.
I also think the way some people have attacked Obama is wrong. There’s no base for it; only because [his middle name is] Hussein. This is so childish. I’m not saying they have to vote for him. But have a public debate on this issue — don’t spread hateful rumors.
– The Jewish Advocate