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December 05, 2003 - Image 95

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-12-05

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many other groups, especially the
"umbrella" Jewish organizations.
"Unlike other Jewish organizations,
our positions are not determined by our
lay leadership or by our professional
staff," Cohen said. "When dealing with
a broader constituency that may have
different viewpoints on an issue, there is
more division within the organization,
less clear positions. The only question is
how do you see an issue through the
prism of Torah?"
In an era when groups such as the
Christian Coalition help shape the
national agenda and top congressional
leaders wear their religious zeal on their
sleeves, both men agree there is much
greater receptivity in Washington to
political activism based on strong reli-
gious views.
But that receptivity doesn't always
translate into success.
Take the Workplace Religious
Freedom Act, which would make it easi-
er for Orthodox Jews and others to ful-
fill their religious obligations without
risking their jobs. The bill has been a
top priority for both groups, but it
remains moribund in Congress.
"Everybodys for religion, everybody
wants to see a greater religious presence
in the public square — but then, when
you get down to specific issues like reli-
gious accommodations in the workplace,
a lot of people pull back," Cohen said.
In today's political environment, the
Orthodox duo is positioned to play a
growing role, says Akiba Covitz, a
University of Richmond political scien-
tist.
"The people who are leading the
Republican Party adore 'religious right'
people in the Jewish community," he
said. "There's a sense they are fighting
the same battles — on Israel, on the
domestic issues. There is a real comfort
level."
Oddly, Christian conservatives may be
more comfortable with this development
than some politically conservative Jews,
Covitz said.
"I don't think the Jewish political right
and the [Jewish] religious right are really
comfortable with each other yet," he
said. 'All of the politically active Jews I
know who are conservative are a little
uncomfortable about being associated
with these religious organizations."
. But Covitz said that is likely to
change: The OU and Agudath are pro-
moting a domestic agenda that he says is
increasingly attractive to "upper-middle-
class, suburban Jews." II

JN StaffWriter Shelli Liebman Dorfman
contributed to this story.,

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