Monthly Archives: December 2009
The Jewish Daily Forward
By Jonathan D. Sarna
The news that President Obama is cutting the guest list for the annual White House Hanukkah party from 800 to 400 lit up cyberspace over the past couple weeks. “More Proof Obama Hates Jews,” read one dispatch that crossed my desk. Other responses were equally hostile. Overlooked in the frenzy over whether the president was prudently cutting costs or (as one blogger vigorously insisted) purposefully “dissing Jews” was a fascinating question: How did the president of the United States come to hold an official White House Hanukkah party in the first place?
For most of the 20th century, the only December holiday that gained White House recognition was Christmas. Calvin Coolidge inaugurated the practice of lighting an official White House Christmas tree in 1923, and he also delivered the first formal presidential Christmas message. He assumed, as most Americans of his day did, that everybody celebrated Christmas. In 1927, he proclaimed that “Christmas is not a time or a season, but a state of mind.” If we focus on its message, Coolidge explained, “there will be born in us a Savior and over us will shine a star sending its gleam of hope to the world.” Silent Cal, so far as I can determine, uttered not one word about Hanukkah.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whom the American Jewish community adulated, proved no more sensitive when it came to Hanukkah. He sent evocative Christmas cards to Rabbi Stephen S. Wise and other friends in the Jewish community, and declared that Christmas was a national holiday “because the teachings of Christ are fundamental to our lives.” His successor, Harry Truman, another favorite of the Jewish community, echoed Roosevelt in his Christmas message to the nation. He called upon Americans to “put our trust in the unerring Star which guided the Wise Men to the Manger of Bethlehem.”
Perhaps the most astonishing of all White House Christmas messages was delivered by a man who should have known all about Hanukkah since he was born just blocks away from a large synagogue in Brookline, Mass., and had many Jewish friends and supporters. Yet John F. Kennedy egregiously declared in 1962 that “Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, as well as Christians, pause from their labors on the 25th day of December to celebrate the birthday of the Prince of Peace.” He believed (or, at least, his speechwriter believed) that “there could be no more striking proof that Christmas is truly the universal holiday of all men.”
The first president who took official notice of Hanukkah was one of the Jewish community’s least-favorite occupants of the White House, Jimmy Carter. In 1979, he ended 100 days of self-imposed seclusion over the Iran hostage crisis by walking to Lafayette Park, lighting the new “National Menorah” erected there by Chabad-Lubavitch, and delivering brief remarks. Sensitized to the fact that Jews celebrate their own holiday in December, he carefully directed his next annual Christmas message only “to those of our fellow citizens who join us in the joyous celebration of Christmas.” Every president since has recognized Hanukkah with a special menorah-lighting ceremony, and limited his Christmas messages to those who actually observe the holiday.
Hanukkah came to the White House itself, in 1989, when President George H.W. Bush displayed a menorah there, given to him by the Synagogue Council of America. But the first president to actually light a menorah in the White House was Bill Clinton. In 1993, he invited a dozen schoolchildren to the Oval Office for a small ceremony. The event made headlines when 6-year-old Ilana Kattan’s ponytail dipped into the flame. Clinton ran his hands through her hair to snuff out the smoke.
Menorah lightings grew in importance during the Clinton years. Memorably, in 1998, Clinton joined Israel’s president, Ezer Weizman, in lighting a candle on the first night of Hanukkah in Jerusalem. But no White House Hanukkah parties ever took place under Clinton. Instead, he included Jewish leaders in a large annual “holiday party.” Jews mingled with Christians at those parties, but those who kept kosher did not find much to eat.
The first president to host an official White House Hanukkah party, and the first to actually light a menorah in the White House residence, was George W. Bush, beginning in both cases in 2001. Since Bush made a point of injecting religion, complete with baby Jesus, into his many annual Christmas parties — 25 of them in 2005 alone — a separate Hanukkah party for Jews showed sensitivity. The annual Hanukkah party also underscored Bush’s deepening bonds with Orthodox Jews, the Jewish religious stream most sympathetic to his “faith-based” agenda. Hasidic leaders in distinctive garb regularly appeared at these parties, and beginning in 2005 (after an embarrassment in 2004 when kosher and non-kosher foods were mixed up), the parties became completely kosher.
Barack Obama is thus only the second president in history ever to hold a White House Hanukkah party. The fact that he is limiting his guest list to the 400 Jews who are nearest and dearest to him is surely less noteworthy than how much America has changed since Calvin Coolidge lit up the first White House Christmas tree and paid no attention to Hanukkah at all.
Jonathan D. Sarna is the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and the author of “American Judaism: A History” (Yale University Press, 2004). He is serving this year as senior scholar at the Mandel Leadership Institute in Jerusalem.
International Jerusalem Post
Dec 17, 2009 9:38 | Updated Dec 17, 2009 16:30
Obama: Hanukkah struggle inspires us
US President Barack Obama and his wife hosted a Hannukah candle-lighting ceremony at the White House on Wednesday night.
During the ceremony, attended by Jewish community leaders, friends and White House staff, the president promoted ideals of freedom, tolerance and justice.
Emphasizing the historical story of Jewish revolt, the president said, “It was more than 2,000 years ago, in the ancient city of Jerusalem, that a small band of believers led by Judah Maccabee rose up and defeated their foreign oppressors – liberating the city and restoring the faith of its people,” according to the White House blog. In contrast to a candle-lighting held during the George W. Bush’s presidency,
the White House this year closed the ceremony to the press, and only released official photos and statements after the event.
The White House Hanukkah party had come under scrutiny after a guest list of only 400 had been made. Following public discord over the size of the party, the White House expanded the guest list. A White House spokesman said that around 500 people had been invited.
The initial list was roughly half the total invited last year, according to a former Jewish liaison in the Bush White House. (George W. Bush started the Hanukkah tradition in the White House)
“There were certainly more than 800 invited [last year],” said the liaison, a position whose duties include managing the Hanukkah party guest list.
However, local Jewish leaders told the Jerusalem Post that White House officials had previously told them the numbers were being reduced from last year, citing reasons including the economic situation and high costs involved in providing kosher food.
But some took the difference in the parties’ sizes to raise questions about the Obama administration’s relationship with the Jewish community, which has experienced some rocky moments in the administration’s first year in office.
Hilary Leila Krieger, Jerusalem Post Correspondent, contributed to this report
December 16, 2009
Tiger Woods has been voted Athlete of the Decade by members of The Associated Press, his 10 years of incomparable golf outweighing nearly three weeks of a salacious sex scandal. (Dec. 16)
By Noel Sheppard | December 16, 2009 –
Despite a growing sex scandal, golfer Tiger Woods has been named by members of the Associated Press as Athlete of the Decade.
According to AP Sports Enterprise Editor John Affleck:
The Tiger Woods scandal if you will, the, all of the, all of the personal turmoil that Tiger has been through in the past few weeks really had very little effect on the voting. Voting began a few days before his accident, and he had already established a lead, and he maintained that lead, and it even grew a little bit I think in the past couple of weeks.
Imagine that. His lead GREW after the scandal hit.
Actually, it’s not hard to understand that …. there is Tiger the man and Tiger the athlete. As the man, Tiger has a long way to go but as the golf athlete, he is in a class all by himself. Tiger, please get help from the Lion of Judah.
Can you believe that Al Franken, aka Stewart Smalley from SNL, took this position today in the Senate?
Franken Denies Lieberman an ‘Additional Moment’ to Continue Speaking on the Senate Floor
Can we all just get real here? Remember these days?
“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggonit people just like me” lol!
There is a growing mood of disgust across this country about the prospects of Obama and Holder bringing the trial of the 911 planners to New York City. It is the most outrageous display of total disregard for the families of those who died in the attack. Not only should we all go to the streets and protest but most importantly, we should pray. Prayer should always come first and then follow marching orders.
As Ephesians 6: 12 informs us:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
It my belief that we can persuade the Obama administration to change its mind.
Updated December 14, 2009
Obama’s Safe Schools Czar Tied to Lewd Readings for 7th Graders
By Maxim Lott
Obama adviser Kevin Jennings is under fresh attack after it was revealed that the pro-gay group he formerly headed recommends books his critics say are pornographic.
The group under fire is the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which Kevin Jennings, now the assistant deputy secretary for safe and drug-free schools in the Department of Education, founded and ran from 1990 to 2008.(more)
Gateway Pundit has been reporting on this scandal for over a week now. Congressmen are going to the floor of the House asking for Jennings’ resignation. Hannity and Greta Van Susteren have called for this man’s firing and through all of this President Obama is not listening.
This is the latest reporting on this troubling situation from Gateway Pundit:
After years of silence a traumatized Massachusetts teacher spoke out in an interview about what she witnessed at GLSEN’s Fistgate Conference in 2000. She also describes Barack Obama’s Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennings’ role at the infamous conference that discussed “fisting” and “watersports” with children.
The Massachusetts teacher in this interview attended the conference and actually took the photo of Obama’s Safe School Czar Kevin Jennings sitting and holding a conference program during a break. Jennings was the keynote speaker at the conference.
The teacher claims that there is “no way” that Obama’s Safe School Czar did not know about the pornographic and sexually explicit material that was presented and discussed at the conference. Kevin Jennings is the founder of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).
Here is a partial transcript of the interview. The teacher wanted to remain anonymous out of safety considerations for herself and her family:
Jim Hoft- Gateway Pundit: I had a couple of more questions. One is did you see Kevin Jennings at the conference?
Massachusetts Teacher: Yes, he was the keynote speaker…
GP: So he was at this conference where they were promoting sexual acts with kids. They were promoting sex between kids and adults and he was the keynote speaker there?
GP: And it was his organization that actually ran the conference. Is that correct?
MT: Specifically, it was GLSEN Massachusetts. But remember, he not only founded GLSEN in Massachusetts but at that point he was the head of the national GLSEN which I believe was in New York City at that time. I don’t know where it is now. He was touted as this wonderful person who helped children so that they wouldn’t be harassed by parents, and other students…
GP: Right. Which sounds like a good thing.
MT: Oh yeah. It sounds really good because there’s not a single teacher I know that wants any child to be mistreated… And so all of these things sound really good.
GP: Right… So let me ask you this. Was Kevin, did you see him throughout the day? Do you recall him at all?
MT: Um. The last time I saw him was when I snapped the picture of him and Wallace Bachman* that was taken in the front row of the auditorium. I knew that I wanted to get his picture. Cameras were not outlawed the first year (2000)… Now in that picture Wallace Bachman is on the left and Kevin is on the right and Adam is giving him a lunch ticket. I took it just at the moment they were looking down and it wasn’t a real attractive… It was one of those pictures you really want to get.
GP: It’s a great picture. So there’s no way. Let me ask you this, there’s no way that Kevin Jennings could have been at this conference and not know that there was this explosive sexual speeches, talks, materials around the conference?
MT: This whole conference was his dream and his mindset. This was his vision from the very beginning.
GP: So there was no way that they would have had material there that he would not have, would you say approved of?
MT: Obviously, this is material that he advocates. Even today if you read the text of some of the books that they put out.
GP: That was up on my blog, by the way.
MT: He knew about that too. He knows about everything all along. Remember, the buck stops with him. He was the head of all of this.
MT: He brought in all of the people that would agree with him as any administrator would do. You bring in people who agree with you who you can work with.
GP: Sure. Alright. Oh wow! That’s a powerful statement right there. That’s really powerful.
Today Kevin Jennings is Barack Obama’s Safe Schools Czar.
* -The teacher said the man sitting with Kevin Jennings was Adam Glick but others told me it was Wallace Bachman.
There’s more to come.