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CINCINNATI (AP) — American rabbis should exercise moral leadership this election year by spotlighting issues such as the Iraq War, the need for universal health care and the growing problem of anti-Semitism around the world, a Jewish leader urged an assembly here.

Rabbi Peter Knobel, president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, issued the call at the organization's convention but cautioned that rabbis should remain "politically neutral."

The conference is composed of an estimated 1,800 rabbis of Reform Judaism, the largest branch of the faith in the U.S.

Rabbi Knobel, the spiritual leader of Beth Emeth Congregation in Evanston, Ill., also highlighted bringing peace to the Middle East and bridging divides separating whites and blacks.

"Often religion is decried as irrelevant," Rabbi Knobel said. "Quite the contrary. Our moral voices should be heard by all."

Knobel decried the Iraq War "as killing and maiming thousands, alienating the Muslim world and wasting resources which would make for a safer, more secure and just world."

The road to Middle East peace, he said, is "paved with compromise, courage and danger."