Battleground congregation

The World

The polls suggest that the presidential contest for Nevada’s five electoral votes is going to be close and that has helped what this Rabbi calls an intense political atmosphere at his synagogue. The synagogue is the oldest one in Nevada, and the kind of place that has traditionally supported Democrats, but that might not be the case anymore. The rabbi says he’s never seen the congregation more divided politically. As for the rabbi himself, he will never say who he supports in public. Political operatives are content to fill the void at the synagogue, which is in a well to do suburb of Las Vegas. On a recent night, Republican Oren Hatch spoke on behalf of McCain. Before he takes the stage, Hatch tells me why McCain is the better choice for Jewish voters who care about Israel. That assessment rings true for this woman who says she used to vote Democrat. She says she started voting Republican in 2004 and now she chairs McCain’s Nevada Jewish Coalition. She says she’s not the only person here who has followed Senator Joe Lieberman and crossed over the aisle. On the other side there’s plenty of enthusiasm about Obama at the temple. One of the congregation’s highest profile member is this congresswoman, and she believes Obama is the right choice. She says she’s offended by the whispering campaign against Obama. The rabbi says in one way he’s surprised by how much passion this election has stirred up because McCain and Obama are in agreement when it comes to U.S. policy towards Israel. He says both sides have mischaracterized the candidates’ positions at times, and he encourages congregation members to do their own research, and then turn to scripture. He cites the example of Moses, who was humble and imperfect, and that’s why God chose him to be a leader.

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