Obama for America officials urged Philadelphia-area Jews to sign up for the campaign and to tout Obama’s record on Israel to friends and family during a political rally Monday night at Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, a Philadelphia suburb.
Some Republican members of the community criticized the synagogue for agreeing to hold an event organized and operated by Jewish Americans for Obama, an arm of the Obama campaign.
During the rally, which featured Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and a slew of Pennsylvania Democrats, multiple speakers defended the president against allegations that he has been unduly tough on the Jewish state.
"They gave their credentials about their Jewishness and then said, ‘If I had a single doubt about the President, I wouldn’t campaign for him,’" recalled Lynne Kessler Lechter, a local Republican who, along with 100 or so other GOP activists, attended the event as an observer.
The Republican activists reportedly heckled Wasserman Schultz as she tried to speak about the president’s relationship with Israel, according to reports.
Following her remarks, Wasserman Schultz took four "canned" questions, according to Lechter, leading to accusations that she was worried about engaging in a debate over Obama’s record.
"This was Jewish Americans for Obama presenting their Jewish credentials and stating that they unequivocally support Obama because he is a true friend of Israel, and to take their word for it," Lechter recalled.
Republican opposition forces are said to have handed out forms to help patrons report to the IRS a violation of the synagogue’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. Critics believe that the pro-Obama event conflicts with an IRS rule stating that nonprofit organizations, such as religious institutions, "are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office."
Lechter went on to express surprise that Wasserman Schultz touted Obama’s heavily criticized 2009 speech in Cairo as evidence that the president is a friend of Israel. Critics at the time dubbed the speech hostile to the Jewish state.
The synagogue’s rabbi was present at the event and took to the podium early in the evening to make clear that he has every intention of hosting a similar event for Republicans.