Obama gave a House candidate his blessing — after reading his letter to a rabbi

WASHINGTON: Former president Barack Obama unveiled his first wave of down-ballot endorsements on Monday for the 2020 elections, which included the Bronx Middle School principal Jamaal Bowman.

Bowman explained the backstory behind the announcement after  receiving the former president’s backing: Obama had reached out to him after reading his response to a local rabbi who questioned the candidate’s positions on Israel.

“He read our response to Rabbi [Avi] Weiss’s letter,” Bowman said on a short video posted on Twitter. “He read that response. He loved it. He wanted to meet me. He called me, we talked, we got the endorsement.”

Weiss wrote an open letter to Bowman in The Riverdale Press asking him to clarify his position on whether the US should condition aid to Israel based on its human rights record, the letter was wrote Less than a week before the election.

Weiss, the founding rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, also faulted Bowman for criticizing Israel but not Palestinian violence, citing a Riverdale native, Ari Fuld, who was knifed to death in the West Bank by a Palestinian terrorist.

Bowman responded by penning an open letter back to Weiss.

“I believe firmly in the right of Israelis to live in safety and peace, free from the fear of violence and terrorism from Hamas and other extremists, and support continued U.S. aid to help Israel confront these security challenges,” he wrote. “I also believe that Palestinians are entitled to the same human rights, safety from violence and self-determination in a state of their own.”

“I can’t promise that we’ll always agree, but I can promise that I will always listen to your concerns and act on them in accordance with my deepest values,” Bowman wrote. “I know that we both have much to learn from each other’s experiences, and I hope that you may give me the chance.”

“Our country’s future hangs on this election, and it won’t be easy. But pandemics have a way of cutting through a lot of noise and spin to remind us of what is real, and what is important,” he said in a statement. “Elections matter. And we need Americans of all political stripes to get involved in our politics and our public life like never before.”


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