This morning in Columbus, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., met with some local Jewish leaders where he discussed Israel, his church, the Middle East, and rumors being spread about him.

Interestingly, just yesterday, Newsweek took a look at how "Clinton campaign operatives have sent around negative material about Obama's relations with Israel...In an e-mail sent Feb. 4 -- a day before Super Tuesday -- Clinton finance official Annie Totah passed along a critical essay by Ed Lasky, a conservative blogger, whose own anti-Obama e-mails have circulated in the U.S. Jewish community. Totah wrote: 'Please read the attached important and very disturbing article on Barak (sic) Obama. Please vote wisely in the Primaries.'"

In Ohio today, one of the matters discussed was the former pastor at Obama's church, Trinity Church in Chicago, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. 

The outspoken Wright has criticized Israel, and Wright's daughter runs a publication, Trumpet Newsmagazine, that gave an award to Nation of Islam leader, and anti-Semite, Louis Farrakhan. (You can watch the video tribute to him HERE.) At the time of the award, Obama issued a statement saying he decries "racism and anti-Semitism in every form, and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan. I assume that Trumpet magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan, based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decision with which I agree."

In Ohio this morning, Obama told the Jewish community leaders that "Louis Farrakhan is a resident of Chicago, and as a consequence, he has been active in a range of community activities, particularly around ex-offenders and dealing with them. I have been a consistent -- before I go any further -- consistent denunciator of Louis Farrakhan, nobody challenges that. And what is true is that, recently this is probably, I guess last year, an award was given to Farrakhan for his work on behalf of ex-offenders completely unrelated to his controversial statements... And I believe that was a mistake and showed a lack of sensitivity to the Jewish community, and I said so. But I have never heard an anti-Semitic comment made inside of our church. I have never heard anything that would suggest anti-Semitism on the part of the pastor."

Obama likened Wright to "an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I don’t agree with. And I suspect there are some of the people in this room who have heard relatives say some things that they don’t agree with. Including, on occasion, directed at African-Americans -- that's maybe a possibility that’s just, I am not suggesting that’s definitive."

Obama then said, "the point I make is this: that I understand the concerns and the sensitivities, and one of my goals, constantly in my public career, has been to try to bridge what was a historically powerful bond between the African-American and Jewish communities, that has been frayed in recent years. For a whole variety of reasons. I think that I have served as an effective bridge, and that’s the reason I have overwhelming support among the Jewish community that knows me best, which is the Jewish community in Chicago. And I think that anybody who has friends among the Jewish community in Chicago should check out those credentials."

As if on cue, Farrakhan today, speaking to a crowd of 20,000 at a Saviours' Day celebration in Chicago, declared that Obama represents "the hope of the entire world that America will change and be made better.

"This young man is capturing audiences of black and brown and red and yellow," the 74-year-old Farrakhan said. "If you look at Barack Obama's audiences, and look at the effect of his words, those people are being transformed."

Farrakhan went on to compare Obama to the religion's founder, Fard Muhammad, who was also bi-racial. "A black man with a white mother became a savior to us," he said. "A black man with a white mother could turn out to be one who can lift America from her fall."

That kind of endorsement could cause Mr. Obama schpilkes.

- jpt

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