President Obama gave advice via conference call to one thousand liberal rabbis regarding how to push for his health care reform efforts at high holiday services (which have by far the largest synagogue attendance of the Jewish year) without seeming partisan:
"I am going to need your help," the president told a telephone audience of about 1,000 rabbis on Wednesday morning, according to the Twitter feed of Rabbi Jack Moline of Alexandria, Va., who added that Mr. Obama advised the group to share stories of health care dilemmas with congregants to illustrate what is at stake in the current debate.
Many religious leaders prefer not to make overtly political pitches to their congregations, and one rabbi asked Mr. Obama how to reconcile the sanctity of the high holidays with the partisan politics of the health care reform fight. The president responded, another participant said, by framing it as a moral rather than a political question, stressing the 47 million Americans who lack insurance.
I don't see anything terribly scandalous about this; the scandal would be if rabbis abuse their pulpit by pushing a political agenda, not the president (who, after all, is a politician, so what can you expect?) asking them to do so.
But I will note that if President Bush had urged a huge group of conservative ministers or priests (there is no such group of rabbis) to subtly use their Christmas or Easter sermons to push for tax cuts, or the Iraq War, there would have been howls of outrage from certain circles that I predict will be utterly silent over Obama's actions.
UPDATE: Courtesy of a commenter, here's an interesting take on the call by an Orthodox rabbi who participated. More rabbis should heed this wisdom: "Rabbis have enough difficulty understanding the nuances and intricacies of their own religion to be promoting specific policies in areas for which they have no expertise."