Having met with leaders of the Conservative movement last week and prior to that both he and Vice-President Biden had met with Reform leaders, addressed national Jewish conventions, and met with the national Jewish organizational leadership, President Obama met on Tuesday with leaders of the modern Orthodox community. This is all part of a continuing a designed outreach to the Jewish community, but not only to Jews but also to all groups—especially in an election year.
According to reports the regularly scheduled meeting with White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, included 45 minutes of face time with the President. Presumably beyond the normal pictures and pleasantries, it seems that the meeting covered all the expected issues on the Jewish (pro-Israel) agenda as well as the very compelling problem especially critical to the Orthodox community, the mushrooming cost of Jewish education and the concomitant question of church-state relations. There was one issue, however, that reportedly also was raised by the participants which did stretch the mind. Given the brief window with the President since when is the modern Orthodox community concerned with the public policy dimension–that the Obama Administration has ordered—requiring church based hospitals and institutions to include contraception costs in the health care coverage provided for their employees.
Certainly Jewish law has very clear guidelines as to how Jews should address matters involving contraception, abortion, etc., but not as matter for national policy for all Americans. If the Orthodox rabbis and lay leaders were going to address domestic social policy questions, they should have used their few minutes with the President to express concern for declining social security benefits’ coverage, cuts in Medicare, needs of the Jewish poor, and workers’ benefits, where Government is very hard pressed to provide adequate funding; not enter a realm that has minimal impact on the modern Orthodox community.