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Chicago Jews on Wright, Obama

As I noted in my story today, Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright has raised the ire of many conservative Jewish groups, including the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Jewish Defense League. Their argument will likely get a jump start later today, when Wright begins an all out media blitz on the "Bill Moyers Journal" tonight, a speech at the NAACP annual dinner and another at the National Press Club Monday.

As these groups continue to contend that Wright (and Obama by association) is anti-Semitic and/or anti-Israel, a couple recent conversations I had with leaders of the Chicago Jewish community painted a far different picture.

While Melanie Maron was working as the associate director of the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Chicago chapter, she took international delegations to Wright’s Trinity Church. "We would call and make it very clear we were from AJC and that we had a large delegation," Maron, who is now the executive director of the AJC Washington D.C. chapter and spoke only for her personal experiences and not for AJC. "We were always very warmly welcomed. There was never any hesitation and they were happy to have us. We were even acknowledged by Reverand Wright from the lectern."

On one occasion, Wright met with the Maron and a German delegation for 30 minutes before the service. Wright, who speaks German, laid out the history of the black church in America and took questions. In the service, "Wright announced that we were there and the choir sang a song in German," Maron said. "It was a powerful and warm welcoming experience."

"My experience with Trinity and Rev. Wright personally was always very positive," added Maron.

When Obama was in the Illinois State Senate, he worked during the summers at Judson Miner’s firm, Miner, Barnhill and Galland. During that time, Miner, who is Jewish, became very close with Obama. "I have never seen a hint that he has had any issues with the Jewish community," Miner said. "He is an incredibly fair person. I have known of no prejudice of any sort."

"As long as I have known Barack," Miner said, "he has counted Jews among his friends – people he socialized closely with and were naturally his supporters."

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