Articles on U.S. Presidential candidate Howard Dean from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA):
AMERICA DECIDES 2004
Jewish knowledge reaches deep into Howard Deans past and his home
By Matthew E. Berger
CONCORD, N.H., Dec. 30 (JTA) In the middle of a rowdy rendition of I Have a Little Dreidel at the Sobelson family Chanukah party, Howard Dean walks in and declares himself the cantor.
The Democratic presidential candidate recites the blessings over the candles in near-perfect Hebrew in a dining room crowded with campaign staffers.
Its another Jewish miracle, Carol Sobelson exclaims.
After more songs and a reprise of the Chanukah blessings for Israeli television, Dean begins to pass out doughnuts and cake.
Its just a regular Chanukah for Dean, the former Vermont governor later says, except theres usually only four of us, instead of 54 of us.
Deans most immediate connection to Judaism is his Jewish wife and the couples two children, who identify themselves as Jews. But Dean says he has been connected to the religion for decades.
Dean never considered converting to Judaism, but he says the family did ponder the prospect of joining the Reform synagogue in Burlington, Vt., though they never got around to it.
The candidates ties span from a college friendship with a Zionist activist, to frequent political appearances at Vermonts synagogues, to lighting the menorah and participating in other Jewish rituals at home.
We light the menorah; we have about three of them, we sing the prayers, Dean told JTA recently as he was driven from the Chanukah party back to his hotel, picking with his fingers at a take-out container of General Tsos chicken. We always like the first night the most because we like the third prayer, he said.
Dean asked the Sobelsons if he could chant the Shehecheyanu, the blessing for a first-of-the-season event, even though it was the third night of Chanukah.
He got permission from Rachel Sobelson, 19, the New Hampshire campaign office manager and daughter of the hosts, who said it was OK because its the first night that Howard Dean is at the house.
Dean is spending a lot of time in New Hampshire, and its paying off. He has a healthy lead in polls there, and political pundits have all but anointed him the favorite to win the Democratic primary campaign.
The candidate stopped by the Manchester Jewish Federation on Dec. 21 to pass out Chanukah presents for children. He brought two of his own childhood favorites for the swap an air hockey game and an electronic board game called Operation.
Deans first spiritual home was the Episcopal Church, but he became a Congregationalist after fighting with the Episcopal Church in Vermont 25 years ago over a bike path.
Rivals say the switch signals a cavalier approach to worship, but Dean says his move was prompted by his former churchs arrogance.
We were trying to get the bike path built, Dean told ABCs This Week with George Stephanopoulos. They had control of a mile and a half of railroad bed, and they decided they would pursue a property-right suit to refuse to allow the bike path to be developed.
Born on Nov. 17, 1948 in East Hampton, N.Y., Dean had a prep-school education and grew up in New York City and at a country house on Long Island.
His first connection with the issues and concerns of the Jewish community came when he enrolled at Yale University in 1967 and became friends with David Berg, a fellow student who was a former president of Young Judaea.
My memory is that Howard was unusually interested, respectful and accepting of that whole part of who I was, Berg, a psychologist in New Haven, Conn., said from Burlington, where he was visiting his daughter, a staffer on the campaign, and the Deans, with whom he spent Chanukah.
In college, Dean was unafraid to discuss Middle Eastern politics in the tumultuous period following the 1967 Six-Day War.
It was a prickly topic of conversation, and I confess to being prickly in conversations in that regard, Berg said. Howard was not afraid to have those conversations, not from a critical point of view, but from a curious point of view.
Their friendship developed over the years, and Berg counseled Dean on his interactions with the Jewish community for instance, when he attended the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and married a Jewish woman.
Dean chose Einstein, the medical school of Yeshiva University, simply because it was the best school available to him, but the selection clearly impacted his education on Jewish issues.
I used to commute with a woman who was Orthodox and kept kosher, so I learned a lot about the dietary laws and more ritualistic parts of Judaism, Dean said.
Berg said Dean felt very comfortable in the environment at Einstein.
I remember us sitting down and talking about kashrut at the dining hall at Einstein, he said. He wasnt afraid of making a mistake; he wasnt treating it like going to a foreign country.
These days, Dean slips into Jewish terminology like a set of comfortable old clothes. Before a November debate in a Des Moines, Iowa, synagogue, he circulated among congregants and chatted amiably about how hard it was for Burlingtons Orthodox shul to get a minyan together until Chabad-Lubavitch came to town.
We were impressed that he knew what a minyan was, congregant Dory Goodman said afterward.
Her friend Ann Kaplan said, We were impressed he knew the difference between a synagogue and a temple.
When Dean began to date his future wife, Judith Steinberg, a fellow student at Einstein, Berg broached the issue of intermarriage.
I had slightly mixed feelings about it from the Jewish side, Berg said. There was some of my mother in me saying, This is a Jewish person marrying a non-Jewish person. But, he said, I got over that quickly.
Deans family had little problem with the fact that he was marrying a Jewish woman, the candidate said.
I think the reason it wasnt an issue in my family was because my father was a Protestant and my mother was a Catholic, and when they got married, that was a very big deal, Dean said. My father, I think, was determined not to put me through the experiences he went through when he married outside his faith.
Deans mother bonded with his future wife over a shared love of The New York Times Book Review, which no one else in the Dean family read.
However, while the Deans welcomed Steinberg, there were a few insensitivities, the candidate said. The first time Dean brought his future bride home for Christmas in East Hampton, Deans uncle served ham. Steinberg doesnt keep kosher, but Dean still found it inappropriate.
Those things happen when you mix cultures, he said.
And there was some frustration in the Steinberg household that Judith was marrying a Christian.
It was a little bit of an issue for Judys grandmother, because she was of the old school, Dean said. But she loved me and I loved her.
Steinbergs grandmother would tell Dean stories about escaping pogroms in Poland and coming to the United States by herself at age 17.
We were very close, even though she would have been happier if I were Jewish, Dean said.
Steinbergs parents were less concerned.
Judith Steinberg, who Dean says is not political at all, has given few interviews and does not campaign with her husband. The campaign did not make her available for comment, but her spokeswoman, Susan Allen, has said that Steinberg views time spent with reporters as time taken away from her patients.
The Deans soon settled in Vermont, where they began a medical practice and a family. The couple has two children: Annie, who is studying at Yale, and Paul, who is a senior in high school.
From early on, he was committed to them both, to giving them some Jewish education, Berg said, noting that Dean would take the children to synagogue.
Neither child had a Bar or Bat Mitzvah or much formal Jewish education. Dean has said he allowed both children to choose their religion, and both now identify as Jewish.
The family celebrates Passover and the High Holidays at home. Many in Vermonts Jewish community tell of how Dean skipped an appearance with Vice President Al Gore in the mid 1990s to travel to New York to be at a Passover seder with his family.
It is a household in which their Jewish heritage was never denied or soft-pedaled, Berg said. But Berg also acknowledged that the Deans dont practice Judaism as he would define it.
Religion was never a central feature of their family life, he said.
Rabbi David Glazier, who leads Burlingtons Reform synagogue, Temple Sinai, says he is not really sure what the familys religious practices are. A Congregationalist in a family where everyone else sees themselves as Jewish is hard to define, he says.
The paradox is between himself and what the Jewish community is, he said.
Glazier first met Dean briefly when the rabbi was asked to give an invocation in the State Senate and Dean, then the lieutenant governor, was presiding.
Dean was thrust into the governors office in 1991 with the sudden death of Gov. Richard Snelling. Glaziers synagogue invited Dean to speak one Friday night to express its appreciation for the smooth transition.
I felt really sorry for Howard, not because he was deserving of pity, but his life was in tumult, Glazier said.
By that time, Dean had become a full-time politician, forced to give up completely the family medical practice that he had scaled down after being elected to the Vermont House of Representatives in 1982 and after becoming lieutenant governor in 1986.
When he attended political events at the synagogue, Dean would remark that he felt very comfortable, Glazier said, and once said he would like to join the temple.
Dean said he left the decision about joining the temple to his wife, and that the family did not get around to affiliating. Berg suggested that, as a mixed-faith family, the Deans were not made to feel particularly welcome at the synagogue.
Glazier said that about half the members of his congregation were not born Jewish, and that his synagogue does extensive outreach to interfaith couples.
How much more welcoming can we be? he asked, concerned that Deans campaign was badmouthing his congregation to justify the candidates lack of public displays of faith.
Glazier said he tried not to ask Dean about his familys religious practices or encourage them to join the synagogue.
Im not an attorney that chases ambulances, Glazier said in an interview in his office one recent snowy Sunday morning. Im not going to make the phone call and say, How come you havent been at temple lately?
Glazier said Steinberg occasionally comes to the synagogue to pick up ritual things she needs.
Glazier also has tried to get Dean to participate more in the Jewish world, offering him a Hebrew Bible to use at his gubernatorial swearing-in. But Glazier, one of three religious leaders who gave prayers at Deans gubernatorial inaugurations, said he hadnt seen Dean use it.
I think he wants to do right, Glazier said of Dean. I think he wants to find a spiritual home, but not disturb the context of his home.
Glazier mentions the precept of shalom bayit, noting that peace in the home is a Jewish ideal.
Dean says he doesnt see much difference between his familys beliefs and his own.
I have a pretty ecumenical approach to religion, Dean said. There is a Judeo-Christian tradition and there are different doctrinal aspects and different beliefs, but the fundamental moral principles are very similar between Judaism and Christianity.
He does, however, wish his children knew more about Christianity, having experienced it little beyond Christmases at the home of Deans parents, in New York. Dean himself says he does not attend church often but prays every day.
The thing that I like the most about Christianity is the idea that Jesus sought out those people who were left behind the lepers, the prostitutes, the Samaritans that were cast aside, he said. And thats kind of what I think the mission of the Democratic Party is in some ways.
BEHIND THE HEADLINES
Controversy erupts over e-mails as Dean blames Rove for online attacks
By Matthew E. Berger
WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 (JTA) Howard Dean is smarting from e-mails that distort his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he has suggested that President Bushs right-hand man is behind the e-mail campaign.
Speaking Monday to the Pacific Council on International Policy, a leadership forum in Los Angeles, Dean said he believed Karl Rove, the White Houses senior political adviser, is behind an e-mail campaign that has flooded inboxes of American Jews across the country.
The White House referred calls about Roves alleged involvement in the e-mail campaign to the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign. Scott Stanzel, a campaign spokesman, said the campaign does not respond to comments by the Democratic contenders.
The message in the e-mails is that Dean wants an even-handed policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many Jews consider that a way of saying that the United States should be less supportive of Israel.
Ive discovered that even-handedly is a code word to certain people who think that is being unfair, and I dont want to ever repeat that word again, Dean said in the question-and-answer session after the speech in which he outlined his vision for foreign affairs and national security. It is now making its way around the Internet in an unsigned piece of literature, undoubtedly from one of my worthy opponents, perhaps Karl Rove.
The campaign later said Dean made the comments in a light-hearted exchange with a questioner, who wanted to know how he would deal more even-handedly with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Matthew Dorf, Deans liaison to the Jewish community, noted that the audience broke into laughter after Dean said it. However, Dorf reiterated Deans comment that the e-mails are politically motivated.
Its clearly the work of political opponents and not true friends of Israel, he said.
The comments came as Dean announced a slew of foreign policy advisers, including one who has drawn some criticism from the American Jewish community.
Clyde Prestowitz, president of the Economic Strategy Institute, will advise Dean on globalization and international economics.
Prestowitz is the author of Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions, in which he says that U.S. aid to Israel should be made conditional on Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a freeze on settlement development and the uprooting of most settlements.
Prestowitz told JTA on Tuesday that he has not discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or U.S. support for Israel with the Dean campaign, and that he has assisted several campaigns, though he refused to say which ones.
He said he would not offer his views on Israel unless Im asked.
Steve Grossman, national co-chairman of Dean for America and a former president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said Prestowitz is one of a number of advisers with whom Dean has consulted, and that Dean does not believe aid to Israel should be conditional on Israeli action.
Prestowitzs views on Israel are 180 degrees opposite Howard Deans own beliefs, Grossman said.
But, he added, If we dismissed any potential adviser because their writing did not conform 100 percent to the candidates views, we wouldnt have many advisers.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said people will be looking at the advisers Dean surrounds himself with since the candidate himself lacks foreign policy experience and people are concerned about Prestowitz.
His views certainly seem to be problematic, Hoenlein said. It certainly doesnt send a positive signal.
Meanwhile, the e-mails, which have been widely circulated in the past few weeks, highlight comments Dean made in September, when he said it was not in Americas interest to take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Howard Dean promised that if he is elected president, the United States will no longer support Israel the way it has in the past under both Democratic and Republican presidents, one of the e-mails says. In his own words, he will insist that the United States be even handed.
The e-mail also makes reference to other Dean comments and says, I urge you that if you have any love for America and Israel you should not and cannot vote for Howard Dean for the office of president.
Dean has since spent a great deal of time and energy clarifying his views. He has said that he meant that Bush, by downgrading U.S. involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict early on in his administration, had abandoned the role of honest broker.
Dean also has emphasized his support for Israel. He said in his speech Monday that he believed the U.S. alliance with Israel will always be and must remain unshakeable, and so will be my commitment, every day of my administration, to work with the parties for a solution that ends decades of blood and tears.
Other Democratic candidates have chastised Dean for being insensitive, at the very least, for using a term like taking sides.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), who has been heavily courting the American Jewish community for support, has been especially critical.
The Internet campaign against Dean has made waves in the American Jewish community, and it remains unclear how prominently the e-mails and Deans initial comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will affect Jewish support for the former Vermont governor.
On its Web site, the Anti-Defamation League called the e-mail campaign against Dean malicious, misleading and factually inaccurate.
In response to concerns about his September speech, Gov. Dean has assured the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish organizations of his support for the State of Israel and his belief in the importance of strong U.S.-Israeli relations, the Web site reads. It includes a letter to Dean from the ADLs national director, Abraham Foxman, and Deans reply.
The Dean campaign says it has been responding aggressively to the e-mail campaign. People who contact Dean about the e-mails receive an e-mail from Dorf providing information on Deans positions on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The jab at Rove was not the first time Dean has put out unsubstantiated rumor and then insisted he was speaking facetiously.
Earlier this month, Dean suggested that the Bush administration had advance notice from Saudi Arabia of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Conspiracy charges against Rove play well to Deans base in the Democratic Party, which regards Rove as unscrupulous.
Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said the charge against Rove was ridiculous and that he was sure the e-mail was not coming from Republicans.
If it makes Howard Dean feel better to blame others for holding him accountable to his own on-the-record statement and views, then so be it, Brooks said. However, to blame the Bush campaign, and specifically Karl Rove, is both untrue and unfair.
AMERICA DECIDES 2004
Dean staff addresses comments on Israel, both real and distorted
By Matthew E. Berger
BURLINGTON, Vt., Dec. 30 (JTA) An e-mail smear campaign distorting Howard Deans positions on Israel, coupled with the candidates genuine gaffes, has his staff working overtime to persuade Jewish voters that he is committed to Israel.
Even-handed is not a way anyone fairly describes Howard Dean, said Stu Brody, chairman of the Democratic Rural Conference in New York and a former liaison between the Vermont governor and Jewish leaders. His commitment to Israel is as strong as anyones.
The former Vermont governors now famous comment that he would support an even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict led more than a few Jewish community leaders to fret that Dean would push Israel to make risky concessions for peace.
The e-mail campaign this fall denounced by the Anti-Defamation League as a distortion of Deans record accuses Dean of having promised to no longer support Israel the way it has in the past under both Democratic and Republican presidents.
In his own words, he will insist that the United States be even handed, said the unsigned e-mail. I urge you that if you have any love for America and Israel you should not and cannot vote for Howard Dean for the office of president.
The e-mails have had an effect, and national Jewish organizations report fielding calls from constituents worried about Deans record.
Brody and other Jews close to Dean insist that the U.S. approach to Israel would not significantly change under Deans watch, and that Dean is a strong supporter of Israels security.
They say Deans even-handed comment referred to perceptions that the Bush administration had distanced itself from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while Dean meant that he wanted the United States to resume its role of honest broker between the sides.
Several Jewish leaders remain unconvinced.
There are some real reservations and concerns, said one senior Jewish leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity. There is real concern whether this guy could stand up to the war on terrorism and do the right thing.
Morris Amitay, a pro-Israel activist, said Deans off-the-cuff remarks mean more than his scripted clarifications after the fact.
He can say the right thing, but they arent obviously what he feels when hes speaking on his own, said Amitay, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Hell have to go to real great lengths to convince people that he can be trusted on this issue.
Another political analyst suggests that Dean needs to show more love for Israel and speak more of his trip last year to the Jewish state.
Jewish leaders say their concerns run deeper than the off-handed use of even-handed. They worry that Dean does not have a clear record on the Middle East largely because he is a former governor and not a legislator and that he has made other questionable comments and decisions.
They include naming Clyde Prestowitz as a foreign policy adviser. Prestowitz has said U.S. aid to Israel should be conditional on Israeli concessions to the Palestinians. Campaign officials stress that Prestowitz will focus on globalization and international economics, not the Middle East.
Dean has called Hamas terrorists soldiers, a term that some say legitimizes the group. Dean used the term on CNN in defending Israels right to single out Hamas leaders for targeted killings, and his campaign says the word reinforces the argument that terrorists are legitimate military targets.
Dean also has suggested former President Jimmy Carter as a potential Middle East envoy, while many Jews feel Carter is too sympathetic toward the Palestinians.
Dean since has backed off those remarks, though his supporters say the controversy over them reflects a double-standard: Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, another Democratic candidate, got into much less trouble for suggesting as envoys Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker, also perceived as unfriendly to Israel.
Most notably, Dean has been a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq. Many Jews believe the war ousted a dangerous tyrant who had attacked Israel and could do so again, and they now see potential for stability in the region.
The campaign counters that many in the Jewish community who are highlighting Deans missteps are supporters of President Bush or of Deans Democratic primary opponents. Dean even has suggested that Karl Rove, the White Houses senior political adviser, was behind the e-mail campaign.
The White House and the Bush re-election campaign have refused to comment.
To send an e-mail like that is exactly the perfect tactic to set off fears in this community, Dean recently told JTA. Politics is a rough game and its an ugly game, but people who do these kinds of things ought not to be in politics and dont deserve to win.
Deans supporters also say his comments on the Middle East appeal to liberal Jews who back a Palestinian state and want Israel to dismantle settlements and make other concessions for peace.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said he believes members of his community are not reacting to the e-mails. He said that Reform congregants are examining Deans foreign policy on a more sophisticated level.
This effort to portray Dean as anti-Israel and bad for the Jews I dont think will be successful, Yoffie said. People are looking in a serious way at the broader issues, like his approach to foreign policy.
Certainly, this is not the first instance in which a candidate has gotten off to a shaky start because he has been largely unknown to the Jewish community. When Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton campaigned in New York in 1992, Jewish leaders raised concerns that he did not unequivocally support Jerusalem as the undivided Israeli capital.
The 2004 election, however, occurs against the backdrop of Middle East tumult. And with the popularization of the Internet and e-mail, concerns about Dean travel at cyberspeed.
David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said he has received lots of questions about Deans policy positions in the last four to six weeks. Many people in the Jewish community, Harris said, first learned about Deans Middle East views from the even-handed statement.
From that point forward, hes been having to explain himself and undo the damage done from that one statement, Harris said. But this is certainly not a lost cause.
Dean campaign staffers are distributing a letter from Steve Grossman, the campaign co-chairman and former president of AIPAC, in which he cites 15 quotes from Dean supporting the Jewish state and outlining how Dean would handle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Grossmans letter also highlights the ADLs declaration that the e-mail campaign is malicious, misleading and factually inaccurate.
The campaign is targeting people who have received the anti-Dean e-mail, finding e-mail addresses of people who forwarded it on and asking that they forward the Dean campaigns response as well.
The most important thing we need to get out to the Jewish media, the Jewish leaders and concerned Jewish citizens all over the country is the real story of who Howard Dean is, what he stands for and the level of leadership he will provide to the country, Grossman told JTA.
Grossman acknowledged that it will take a concerted effort to dispel the doubts about Dean and that effort likely will be needed through November if Dean gets on the Democratic ticket this summer.
Grossman and Matthew Dorf, Deans liaison to the Jewish community, will be meeting with Jewish leaders in New York next month. Campaign officials say their work in the Jewish community is no different from what other campaigns do in communities concerned about the candidates specific positions.
You can never allow someone to write all over your blank slate, Grossman said.