DC Jews React to Obama Inauguration, Honor MLK with Volunteer Work

January 24, 2013 12:22 am 0 comments

Framed by the classic arches of the Capitol balcony, President Barack Obama delivered his second inaugural address Jan. 21, 2013. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

Monday’s 57th Presidential Inauguration officially sent off Barack Obama into a second term as America’s 44th President and the country’s first African American commander in chief. After being formally sworn in Sunday at the White House, Obama gave his inaugural address to about one million people Monday, according to a recent White House estimate. This day was in the same month as the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation (Jan. 1), and coincided with Martin Luther King Day.

In the days leading up to Monday’s inauguration, freedom of movement in the nation’s capital was restricted and street lockdown began. Parade floats stood silent, awaiting their riders and musical escorts. In addition to participating in inauguration-weekend activism and service events, members of the Washington D.C. Jewish community shared with JNS.org a variety of views on the President’s reelection and upcoming second term.

In the 1960s Jewish activists, such as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, collaborated with Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. Nearly half a century later, the Friday before the presidential inauguration, a women’s leadership event, the Women’s Leadership Network luncheon of the National Jewish Democratic Council, kicked off the inaugural weekend in Jewish Washington. The discussion panel included former White House Communications Director Ann Lewis, Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) and The Jerusalem Post Washington Bureau Chief Hilary Krieger.

It was “one of the most inspirational events I’ve attended in a very long time,” NJDC board member Barbara Goldberg Goldman told JNS.org.“Proud Jewish women of all ages came together to share their desire to perform tikun olam and make a difference in the world in which they live.“

First Lady Michelle Obama embraces her husband the President immediately following his public swearing in Jan. 21, 2013. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

Goldman isn’t worried about Obama’s recent decision to nominate former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) for defense secretary in the President’s second term. Hagel has made controversial statements such as “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people in Congress,” and critics are concerned with his questionable record on Israel.

Hagel’s “record has been distorted and twisted,” she said, and President Obama is “has done more for Israeli defense than any other president,” she said.

As the 57th Presidential inauguration unfolded Jewish U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) spoke of the “American tradition of transferring or re-affirming the immense power of the United States…as an enduring symbol of the American democracy.”

But even among those attending inaugural functions, not all members of the Washington D.C. Jewish community supported the President and his policies. At one inaugural ball, a law student and a Republican named Dan, who asked not to reveal his last name, told JNS.org he is deeply concerned with the on-going growth of social assistance programs he feels remove individual responsibility and harm the American work ethic. “The drive to succeed will disappear,” he said.

Though Obama did not mention Israel in his inaugural address, the President emphasized his administration “will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom,” according to the Jerusalem Post.

However, just recently Jewish American columnist Jeffrey Goldberg reported Obama has said in private conversations that “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are” when it comes to construction beyond the Green Line. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded in an interview that he is “confident that President Obama understands that only a sovereign Israeli government can determine what Israel’s interests are.”

Senior Online Editor of Commentary magazine Jonathan S. Tobin recently wrote that “there are good reasons to believe that tension between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will continue to simmer during their respective terms. The disconnect between the president’s view of the region and the consensus of the overwhelming majority of Israelis about the future of the peace process has created a gap between the two countries that continues to cause trouble. The fact that the two men don’t like each other also doesn’t help.”

Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Washington, D.C. Photo: David Monack via Wikimedia Commons.

Scott Perlo, rabbi and associate director of Jewish programming at the historic Washington, D.C. Synagogue Sixth and I, is less certain about the President’s second term but optimistic.

“I am conscious of the stratified society and social and economic inequities…Whatever your feelings are about the election, the new president is a vindication of the fact the democratic process works,” Perlo said.

The Sixth and I synagogue’s combined Moorish, Romanesque, and Byzantine-styled building was dedicated in 1908. After the congregation moved to another location, the building became a church, but was returned to the Jewish community in 2000. The building was restored, and now functions not only as a synagogue but also as a venue for lectures and exhibitions.

Inaugural festivities at the historic shul began with a January 16 NPR “Political Junkie Road Show” hosted by Neal Conan and Ken Rudin.   “We have people whose perspective tends to be an inside-the-belt-way one. If you were a Jew in America in the 80’s, the presumption was you were a Democrat, but strongly pro-Israel.  That demography is changing,” Perlo said.

Leading up to the inauguration Washington’s Jewish community also participated in the National Day of Service Saturday. Erica Steen, Director of Community Engagement at the Washington, D.C. Jewish Community Center (JCC), spent Shabbat afternoon at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Fair in the National Mall speaking with thousands of participating visitors about the outreach efforts of the Washington Jewish community.   Repair the World, a New York City organization dedicated to Jewish community service, also represented the Jewish community at the fair.

Among the beneficiaries of the JCC’s outreach efforts is the Temporary Emergency Residential Resource institute for Families In Crisis (TERRIFIC, Inc.).  As part of inaugural weekend activities, more than twenty-five volunteers painted and repaired apartments for homeless families.

“It’s a community weekend,” Steen said, “an opportunity for the nation to come together to celebrate the presidential inauguration, remember Martin Luther King and really give back to the community.”

“Judaism believes strongly in service – a basic critical elements of what makes someone a Jew… a sense of obligation to make the world a better place,” Perlo added.

Washington D.C. JCC also held its own Inaugural Ball celebrating the president’s second term Monday night.

Gil Steinlauf, Senior Rabbi of Washington’s largest Conservative congregation Adas Israel, said “it is a great honor to be attending the inauguration, representing one of the oldest congregations in the District – truly a joy and a celebration.” Both American Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, and Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, attend the synagogue, he said.

Steinlauf believes Obama’s selection of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, “is of concern” and “attention must be paid.” Although he is optimistic about “the United States’ continued support for Israel” and does not think we will see “some of the alarmist situations that some in the Jewish community fear,” he said, “the President will pose certain challenges.”

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    JNS.org – At the turn of the century, a young Jewish immigrant arrived in New York. So begins the history of many American Jewish families. It is 27-year-old Albert Allaham’s story, too, with a few unusual twists. Albert’s “century” is the 21st—he arrived almost 100 years after the massive waves of European Jewish immigration. Rather than coming from a small town along the Danube river, his shtetl was Damascus. His first American business was not a pushcart on the Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    Did you know that in the entire Bible, only one birthday is mentioned and it is that of Pharaoh? And did you know that according to some scientists, by accepting Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, it is impossible to prove or disprove that the sun is the gravitational center of our solar system? In his new book, REBBE, best-selling author Joseph Telushkin reveals many surprising and sometimes shocking details as he chronicles the life and teachings of the charismatic Rabbi [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Mitzvos New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    JNS.org – Omelet sandwich: 5 shekels. Iced coffee: 5 shekels. Tuna sandwich: 5 shekels. Fresh-squeezed orange juice: 5 shekels. Cheese bureka: 5 shekels. There’s plenty more on the Cofizz menu, but you get the idea. Dani Mizrahi and Amir Amshalm, two Israeli men in their early 30s, asked themselves: Why not launch a take-out food joint in busy neighborhoods around Jerusalem where everything—and that means everything—goes for five shekels, or about $1.50. They’d seen the concept take off in Tel Aviv, where [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    The new FX Network drama Tyrant was shot entirely in Israel, just 10 miles north of Tel Aviv, Bloomberg News reported last Tuesday. Tyrant follows the life of an Arab dictator’s second son Barry, played by Adam Rayner, who reluctantly returns home to the Middle Eastern nation of his birth to join the family business away from his suburban life in America. The elaborate set production for the primetime drama included a crew of 300 and a reported cost of over $3 million [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Skokie, Il-born 25-year-old Erin Heatherton (Erin Heather Bubley) is rocking the modeling world. And in a new interview accompanying a cover spread for Miami’s Ocean Drive magazine, she says Jewish moms are “constantly trying to set her up with their sons.” Imagine that – who would have thought? “The moms, they’re doing what they do. It doesn’t matter what country they live in, what city – grandmothers, too,” she admitted. “But I’m probably going to do that too one day.” Heatherton was [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Israel First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    Some 15 Turkish university professors and lecturers will take part in a first of its kind seminar at Holocaust museum Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies starting next week. The trip is especially significant as Holocaust denial is rampant in the Arab world. A Palestinian professor was recently forced to resign after he led a trip to the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz. Participants in the week-long program at Yad Vashem will experience in-depth tours of the museum’s archives and [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.