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Obama conference calls with 900 rabbis

NEW YORK — In a conference call with 900 rabbis, Barack Obama said he supports government funding for after-school programs in religious schools.

Speaking to the rabbis on a pre-Rosh Hashanah call on Sept. 17, the Democratic candidate for president said he opposes vouchers for private schools, but would continue to support funding, as is currently provided in the No Child Left Behind law, for after-school, tutoring, mentoring and summer programs at private and religious schools, according to a news release from the Orthodox Union and other rabbis who participated in the call.

Participants said Obama talked about a number of issues and took four questions from leaders of the four major denominations during the more than 40 minutes he spent on the call.

The economy, education, energy, Israel and Iran were among the topics he discussed.

With the call coming less than two weeks before Rosh Hashanah, the Democratic nominee wished the group “Shanah Tovah.”

He also discussed how the shofar “raises people from slumber” and how he hoped this election could do the same, according to rabbis on the call.

Rabbi Sam Gordon, who introduced Obama and serves as co-chair of “Rabbis for Obama,” said he believed that a presidential candidate speaking to hundreds of rabbis was “unprecedented” during a political campaign, and that Obama showed an impressive “depth of knowledge” — at one point referring to the largest modern Orthodox high school in Chicago by name, the Ida Crown Academy, when discussing faith-based schools.

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