(The Washington Post) – For weeks, President Obama has wrestled with his frayed relationship with key members of the American Jewish community. On Friday he will make his most public effort yet to repair the breach by doing something only three presidents have ever done: He will speak before an audience at a U.S. synagogue.
When Obama speaks in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month at Adas Israel, Washington’s most prominent Conservative synagogue, his task will not be to persuade the crowd to back his Mideast policies. Instead, he must forge an emotional connection with his Jewish listeners so they feel it in their “kishkes” — Yiddish for guts.
“That’s a real challenge for this president,” said Martin Indyk, who served as a special U.S. envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations under Obama and belongs to Adas Israel. “It’s not simple to connect on the level of the kishkes.”
The conundrum Obama faces is one of a politician who shares a close cultural affinity with the liberal, social-activist Jews he has known for his entire academic and professional career but has never really connected with a national Jewish establishment that views him as insufficiently sympathetic to Israel.