Obama Faces Tough Questions by Jewish Voters


From CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic:

MIAMI -- Barack Obama was grilled at a Boca Raton synagogue tonight as he tried to win over Jewish voters. Although he was well received by the crowd, he was asked some of the toughest questions to date. Amidst chatter that his relationship with the Jewish community has been strained, Obama made a strong effort to dispel rumors about his biography and that he does not support Israel. "If my policies are wrong, then vote against me because my policies are wrong," Obama said. "If I'm not honest, if I'm not truthful, don't vote for me for that reason but don't vote against me because of who I am."

He linked the African-American community to the Jewish community several times through out his remarks, saying that they share a historical bound. "I know that Dr. King could not have done everything that he did had it not been for the support of the Jewish community," he said. "There was a time when we saw a common cause."

Obama also defended his position on Iran, telling the crowd that diplomacy may be a favorable for both the United States and Israel. "If we don't free ourselves from this, we are going to continue down a road in which we are internationally isolated," Obama said. "We are in a weaker position in terms of helping Israel. We are on the sidelines."

Some of the voters pressed Obama on his background, alluding to rumors that he is Muslim; Obama, however, appeared prepared for the questions and was open to answering them. "Let's be honest: part of what raises concerns, you've got a black guy named Barack Obama," he said to a voter who asked him why he does not go back to being called Barry. "I thought it was important to acknowledge this other side of my heritage, and so I was called Barack."

Another voter asked about his relationships with individuals who have taken a strong stance against Israel, such as Columbia Professor Rashid Khalidi. "To pluck out one person who I know and who I've had a conversation with who has very different views than 900 of my friends and then to suggest that somehow that shows that maybe I'm not sufficiently pro-Israel, I think is a very problematic stand to take." Obama said as the crowd applauded. "We've got to be careful about guilt by association."