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October 03, 2003 - Image 12

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-10-03

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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resident George W. Bush
marked the Jewish New Year
by telling a roomful of rabbis
about his faith and how it
helped make him a better man.
Rabbi Daniel Nevins of Adat Shalom
Synagogue in Farmington Hills was
among 15 rabbis who spent an hour at
the White House Monday discussing
topics that included Iraq, the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict, poverty and
faith-based initiatives. Quite a few of
the rabbis were observing Tzom
Gedaliah (a fast commemorating the
murder of Gedaliah ben Achikam, gov-
ernor of Judah in the time of King
Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia).
Before offering time for
questions, Rabbi Nevins said
the president spoke, "giving -
an overview of his thoughts
on the war on terror, the need
to succeed in Iraq, his love of
freedom and his faith in the
American people."
Rabbi Steven Pruzanski of
Teaneck, N.J., said President
Bush twice became emotion-
al. Once was while discussing Nevins
his recent trip to the site of
the Auschwitz death camp in
Poland; the other time when he talked
about how people pray for him.
The president spoke openly about his
drinking problem of years past, telling
the rabbis that faith played a role in his ,
quitting.
"No one questioned him on the tax
cuts for the rich, but several rabbis,
Reform to Orthodox, went out of their
way to thank him for the faith-based
charities initiatives and for making reli-
.gion a respectable part of American dis-
course without imposing any particular
dogma," Rabbi Nevins said.
"He acknowledged that the economy
has been weak and unemployment high
and stated that he understood that
headlines like 'The March to War' were
not conducive to investment and opti-
mism."

Israel Connection

"I was so impressed by the candor of
the president," said Rabbi Irving Elson,
a chaplain and commander in the U.S.

10/ 3

2003

12



:;.110

.

Navy. "He exuded confidence in his
love of America."
Rabbi Elson said he told President
Bush that Jewish servicemen support
his efforts in Iraq. "The message I was
asked to bring was 'Stay the course,'" he
said.
"Bush spoke very touchingly about
his love and admiration for the Israeli
people," Rabbi Nevins said. "He
described waking up in his hotel room
in Jerusalem and watching the sun rise
over the Old City and calling Laura to
put in her contacts and come see. He
also recalled the famous helicopter ride
he had with Ariel Sharon as his tour
guide in 1998 and his appreciation for
the dilemma faced by Israel.
"He said that he considers Ariel
Sharon to be a friend of peace and a
personal friend, but that he
didn't mind privately dis-
agreeing with him," Rabbi
Nevins said. "As an example,
he criticized the Israeli place-
ment of a tank pointed at
[Palestinian President Yasser]
Arafat's headquarters two
years ago, which he felt gave
Arafat the opportunity to
garner sympathy and sup-
port."
Rabbi Nevins said the
president emphasized that he
would not meet with Arafat, consider-
ing him to be an unreconstructed ter-
rorist, also commenting on his disap-
pointment that Palestinian Prime
Minister Mahmoud Abbas failed so --
quickly.
The president told the rabbis that a
new Palestinian leadership would be
judged on the "simple formula" of its
ability to dismantle terrorist organiza-
tions and fight terrorism. Until then, he
said, "everything's on hold."
President Bush reportedly made no
mention of the road-map peace plan,
co-authored by the United States,
United Nations, European Union and
Russia and which he has pushed for
more than a year.
He also said he supported the security
fence Israel is erecting in the West
Bank, which the Palestinians have called
a land grab. But he said the fence's
route should not preclude later territori-
al negotiations between Israel and the
Palestinians.

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