December 24, 2009


Born-Again President -- White House Hanukkah
(Dennis Prager, December 19, 2004, LA Times)

"Only in America."

That's what I kept repeating to myself last week when I celebrated Hanukkah at a White House party attended by President and Mrs. Bush.

Only in America does a president light a menorah while a Jewish choral group sings Hebrew songs and the Marine band plays American songs. Only in America do Jews feel so honored as Jews and yet so completely part of the larger culture, fully Jewish and fully part of the greater nationality. Non-American Jews (including even Canadians) are often amazed at how completely American Jews in the U.S. feel. We take it for granted, but as a former college lecturer in Jewish history, I know that this is unique.

It is an incredible blessing to be an American Jew (or "Jewish American" � both terms are accurate). We are doubly blessed. An Israeli interviewer once asked if I were first a Jew or an American, "I have two fathers," I said. "George Washington and the patriarch Abraham." So to be one of about 200 Jews invited to celebrate Hanukkah at the White House with the president of the United States was about as profound a personal moment as I have experienced. My two loves -- America and Judaism -- in one place, reinforcing each other.

I suspect that this feeling was shared by just about every Jew present, including bearded Orthodox rabbis heretofore not prone to affirming any non-Jewish national identity. As a yeshiva graduate, I never thought I would live to see identifying Jews, let alone Orthodox rabbis, so happy to be in a room with a menorah and a Christmas tree. Yet that signified a sea change taking place in American Jewish life � the realization that Christianity is no longer the enemy or the great Other but, for the first time in 2,000 years, a great ally.

And the most Christian nation the most reliable ally.

Meanwhile, in the secular world, Germany to stop accepting ex-Soviet Jews (Reuters, 12/19/04)

Germany is to stop offering unlimited immigration to Jews from Russia and eastern Europe from Jan. 1, 2006, ending a policy it launched with the collapse of the Soviet bloc, German newspapers reported on Saturday.

Germany began offering Jews from the former Soviet bloc the right to settle in the country in 1991 to help rebuild its own Jewish communities, devastated by the country's Nazi regime. Some 190,000 Jews had taken up the offer by the end of 2003.

But the fact the number of ex-Soviet Jews coming to Germany has in recent years been higher than the number going to Israel had led to a policy rethink, the newspapers said.

[originally posted: 2004-12-19]

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 24, 2009 12:37 AM
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