Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker Talks About His Protestant Children’s Bar Mitzvahs
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker gave his children bar mitzvahs — even though they are Protestant.
Baker made that surprising confession on Wednesday night before hundreds of Jews and community leaders gathered at the Massachusetts State House for the Israeli Consulate in New England’s annual event celebrating the anniversary of the Jewish state’s independence.
Baker was the featured speaker. He said that when his oldest child turned about 12 or 13, he and his wife Lauren started “going to a lot of bar and bat mitzvahs.”
They were “hard to watch without getting emotional,” he said. He was so inspired by seeing the Jewish parents talk to their children about their hopes, values, and dreams that “when our kids each turned 13, we would sit at the kitchen table and have our own little ceremony.”
“What a gem of an idea,” Baker marveled, “the way the Jewish faith celebrates family and the arrival of young adulthood.”
Baker also reported about the economic mission to Israel he led in December 2016, accompanied by Israel’s consul general in New England, Yehuda Yaakov. He talked about his stop at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, and about putting a note in the Western Wall for a friend with a sick child.
He said that on the day he visited, the temperature was about 40 degrees, but when he touched the wall, it was warm — “almost like it had an energy of its own.”
He spoke of “how difficult it must have been for the Jewish people to go so long without that holiest of spots for them” and of “the joy” that must have accompanied the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967.
“I came away thinking, what an amazing country,” Baker said. He said Israel reminded him of Massachusetts as a place that “deeply honors its history but is also running pell mell into the future of life sciences and technology.”
And he noted the ties between Israel were not just economic, but also based on values. “We are all free and we are all God’s children,” he said.
The president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Boston’s Jewish federation, Barry Shrage, called Baker, “the most popular, amazing governor of the United States of America.”
He said to Baker, “I will not kid you about being my candidate for president.”
Polls show Baker, a Republican, with strong public support even though Massachusetts is a state that leans Democratic.
Shrage said that he had separately just returned from a different trip to Israel, during which he had a chance to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I think the prime minister maybe believes that a deal could be had” for peace with the Palestinians, Shrage said.