Happy Hanukkah from the President

With a very long and rather painstaking two terms of the Bush Administration nearing its end, it’s nice to hear a few positive words about our country’s president being told. From a perspective that we seldom, if ever, see from the media, columnist Jay D. Homnick offers a few insights into President Bush’s character with a few stories from the White House. There’s nothing extraordinary or spectacular, but Homnick’s point is that Bush’s honorable, respectful treatment of the Jewish religion and people reveals that whatever the President’s flaws, he is not the ruthless ogre that liberals would try to paint him to be.

Once Rabbi Teitelbaum was heading out of the White House when the President came through with his aides. “Rabbi,” he said. “I’m on my way to deliver a speech at a synagogue. Will you be there?” “I have no way to get there,” Teitelbaum replied. “Then come with me,” the President answered. Teitelbaum was swept along and became part of the entourage.

Hannukah itself has been granted extraordinary primacy in the Bush White House. Each year a major dinner is hosted by the President, inviting rabbis and Jewish lay leaders from all across the country. Amazingly, in 2002, in a special session after the dinner with a few of the most influential leaders, he entrusted them with the knowledge of the forthcoming invasion of Iraq.

For each of the last four or five years, the day before the annual Hannukah dinner at the White House has featured an improbable scene. A few trained kosher supervisors, mostly Hassidic Jews with beards, get checked in by the Secret Service. The head into the commissary, roll up their sleeves and go to work for hours with blowtorches. Then the kosher beef and chicken is delivered and the chefs get to work. Jews and non-Jews alike get to eat a gourmet repast in honor of Hannukah, with nary a non-kosher morsel anywhere in the room.

This sort of respect is all the more remarkable because the President knows that it buys him very few votes. The Orthodox Jews vote for him anyway and the Conservative and Reform Jews will vote Democrat until Hell freezes over, no matter what he does. Yet this President has taken a stand as the leader of the free world to model for all of us how to treat all good people and their beliefs with dignity (emphasis added).

As Homnick points out, Bush’s actions are significant in this case because they are not politically motivated, nor do they benefit him in any way enough to be worthwhile. His regard for another people and their belief system would appear genuine. And while I haven’t been a fan of Bush policies for a long time now, I will always believe that he is an honest man with a good heart, sticking by his principles even when it required sacrifice. I hope that history will grant him at least this much some day.

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