March 28, 2023

Women Fashion

Never be Caught

What a Liberal Rabbi Learned at the Trump Hanukkah Party

Rabbi David Kaufman and his wife, Julie, attending the White Home Hanukkah occasion in Washington, D.C., Dec. 7, 2017. (Courtesy of Kaufman)

A Jewish woman walks into the write-up place of work to purchase Hanukkah stamps for her vacation cards.

The man or woman driving the counter asks, “What denominations?”

The Jewish lady responds, “Oy! Are we so polarized? Some Orthodox, some Conservative and some Reform.”

Indeed, we are so polarized, equally religiously and politically. Most reports about the White Dwelling Hanukkah get together famous that leaders of the Reform movement and congressional Democrats ended up not invited. While the Obama administration invited 1,700 persons to two Hanukkah get-togethers last 12 months, the Trump administration invited a mere 300 to a person these types of celebration.

Amid them was 1 politically impartial Reform rabbi from Des Moines, Iowa — me.

How in the world did I get an invitation?

I received on the checklist because I arrived at out to somebody I realized in the administration whilst advocating for the State Office to retain the situation of unique envoy to beat anti-Semitism. Before this calendar year there were being conversations that the placement would be removed, and I and lots of many others were urging the White Residence to reconsider.

I did not scream and yell. I didn’t simply call any individual names. I created a scenario for why that situation was and is needed, and asked that my notice be forwarded to whomever would be equipped to effects the determination. The posture was formally retained, while as of yet no one particular has been nominated to fill it and that may not take place for a even though for a longer time.

A number of months soon after I sent the email, out of the blue I acquired a call from a person at the White House inviting me to the Hanukkah social gathering. I realized it would be a simple issue to decrease the invitation. I was now going to be away that working day at a conference. But it is not every day that one is invited to a get together at the White House. President Obama held nine Hanukkah get-togethers and I wasn’t invited to any of them.

Who else was invited?

This 12 months, a considerable share of people invited had been Jewish buddies and relations of the Trump and Kushner families, with a huge percentage of the rest seemingly related to the Zionist Business of The us or the Republican Jewish Coalition. I’m guaranteed several attendees fell into all 3 categories.

A group of ladies from a regional yeshiva choir and their chaperones came to sing. Two Republican associates of Congress attended, Reps. Lee Zeldin of New York and David Kustoff of Tennessee. The Israelis on hand included the U.S. ambassador, Ron Dermer. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and a handful of nationwide Jewish local community leaders ended up there, much too. A majority of the friends seemed to be Orthodox Jews, with lots of affiliated with Chabad.

At the time my spouse and I recognized the invitation, I experienced no notion just how exceptional the guest list was. I achieved out to various mates who I figured would be considerably higher up on the priority checklist than I. No just one I contacted was invited. I did not know that I would be the only Reform rabbi in attendance, probably the only Reform or Conservative rabbi, and surely 1 of a very small range of invitees who are not registered Republicans. Of these who are outspoken supporters of social brings about ordinarily found on the political left, I may possibly perfectly have been the lone person invited.

What was the social gathering like?

On the complete it was a relatively normal Hanukkah occasion. There had been latkes and sufganiyot. The Marine Band played in the grand entryway and the girls’ choir sang “Mi Yemalel” (Who Can Retell?)  at the beginning of the official application.

The president instructed a edition of the Hanukkah story and boasted about his announcement a day earlier to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s money. A Holocaust survivor spoke of her encounters. Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of New York’s Congregation Shearith Israel presented the Orthodox variation of the prayer for the federal government — with its awkward references to God who grants “dominion to rulers” — and the a lot more fitting Shehecheyanu blessing. President Trump’s Jewish grandchildren kindled a single candle on a silver menorah. Friends joined in singing “Maoz Tsur” (Rock of Ages). We did not say the conventional blessings because it was not nonetheless Hanukkah.

Other than a lesser team of VIPs, the large the vast majority of company had been not allowed to interact with the president, Vice President Mike Pence or the Kushner spouse and children, nor was there an prospect for images to be taken with any of them.

Regardless of whether you blame Trump or his opponents, the political local weather has rarely been so polarized. Previous year the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative actions debated no matter whether they really should assist manage a pre-Rosh Hashanah conference connect with with Trump. When they declined (a selection I disagreed with), Trump held his very own phone and did not invite the non-Orthodox rabbis. Just past week, top rated African-American leaders stayed away from the opening of a civil rights museum in Mississippi simply because Trump would be having aspect.

If you are asking yourself, leaders of the Reform movement, numerous other Reform rabbis and my congregation’s leadership, all of whom I advised about the invitation, encouraged us to attend.

These who know me and the advocacy that I do fully grasp well that no politician or political get together escapes my criticism. This administration is definitely no exception. But I have interaction civilly, even when other people do not come shut to returning the favor. My aim is generally to assistance progress the brings about pricey to me, especially when those people causes are beneath menace. I attempt to be as current as I can and speak to whomever I can, even if my counsel ends up staying drowned out or overlooked.

When most of the discuss at the Hanukkah party was on Jewish geography and in guidance of the Jerusalem recognition, I stated to a handful of company my considerations about the deficiency of an anti-Semitism envoy,  and the prospective price range cuts and their impacts on well being treatment and starvation advocacy at the state amount.

The finest quotation about advocacy I know comes from a sports hero, hockey great Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100 percent  of the photographs you do not take.” If you really do not engage in a way that could be productive in shifting plan, if you really don’t converse to and construct associations with all those who may well listen to you and influence other individuals, you will hardly ever be read and have a prospect to impact policy.

Considerably far too many individuals just take a distinct route, believing that it’s improved to scream in protest, title get in touch with, interact in advantage signaling and boycott instead than have interaction constructively and civilly with selection makers.

To paraphrase Gretzky, “One-hundred % of the candles you really don’t light-weight keep unlit.”

This Hanukkah, allow us convey gentle and not darkness into our planet. Be existing and arrive at out. Construct interactions. Don’t boycott. Go to. Share your gentle. The people whose hearts and minds are kindled may possibly assist you to adjust the planet.

(David Kaufman is the rabbi of Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Des Moines, Iowa.)

Note: The sights expressed in this article are all those of the authors and do not necessarily symbolize or reflect the sights of JBN