Torah for Today: What does the Torah say about… Barack Obama’s legacy?

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Torah for Today: What does the Torah say about… Barack Obama’s legacy?

Rabbi Ariel Abel reflects on the impact of the outgoing American president

Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu with US President Barack Obama
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu with US President Barack Obama

When Barack Obama first took office, his critics were openly suspicious.

Barack Hussein Obama shares a middle name with a tyrant whom America had only just deposed in Iraq and although he was born in Hawaii some said he was a non-native and Kenyan and therefore unable to occupy the top job in the White House and command the American armed forces.

On the issue of Israel, Obama has not been warm. While insisting on the importance of Israel’s security, he has consistently blocked the Senate’s majority vote from recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He took a dovish stance on Iran, relaxing sanctions without divesting them from nuclear power. Thus, he copiously heaped his goodwill on a regime that insists on Israel’s destruction. And last week his administration dramatically abstained on a motion at the UN condemning Israeli settlements.

The body language between Obama and Netanyahu has been nothing short of hostile. Many Jews shunned Obama and, based on his Middle Eastern policies, deny he had any worth. However, many positive attributes, valuable to Torah values, permeated his presidency. The nearest the US has ever come to forming an NHS was the ‘Obama Care’ health plan. His aim was no Americans would be without adequate health care simply because they couldn’t afford it.

Throughout his presidency, Obama was sensitive and caring to people often discriminated against such as LGBT and Afro-Americans. As the first Afro-American president, he reflected the values common to all Jews in seeking to champion the cause of the oppressed.

Perhaps most strikingly, the First Family is the first in many decades to have remained scandal free.

The example set by the Obamas is healthy for the nation as a whole. The Obama legacy has not only set precedents for social justice but has also proven its worth as a family with values to emulate.

Ariel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

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