Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Sanctification of God’s Name in Washington, DC

In the Fall of 2007 I was thrown on the Obama bandwagon by a shul buddy of mine. I didn't know squat about Obama then. I had heard of "The Speech," but I hadn't actually heard it. And, although I wasn't wild about Hillary, she seemed the most realistic candidate to support. The truth is that I wasn't much interested in politics. Living in Israel had killed my faith in the political system.

My shul mate had invited me for Shabbat lunch, where I learned that he was working hard for the Obama campaign. In fact, he was one of Obama's principal bundlers. Why? Because he genuinely believed in Obama, and had been a great admirer since they were at Harvard Law school together. Mind you, my friend was a top Washington litigator, and making oodles of money that I couldn't even dream about. But he was also working very hard on behalf of Obama's campaign. If Obama won and he joined the administration, he would take an enormous salary cut.

So when this Washington corporate lawyer, who sounded almost gaga and moon-eyed talking about Barack, asked me whom I was supporting, and I told him, "Hillary," his polite response was, "Hey, she's good; if she gets the nomination, I will help her, too."

But then he turned to me and said, "So, what's your take on Israel?"

For the next twenty-five minutes, over dessert, I told him exactly what I thought. I don't usually do this, especially when I have been invited over somebody's house for a meal, and especially on Shabbat. That's why I write a pseudonymous blog. I don't like confrontation.

At the end of my speech, my host, a liberal Zionist, was somewhat in shock. He had never heard anybody that looked like me talk this way. He said, "Look, I don't agree with most of what you are saying, and I know that Obama doesn't. But I will tell you this. You are not a Hillary supporter. You are an Obama supporter."

Well, I figured that he knew these things better than I did, so I let him throw me on the bandwagon. Shortly afterwards I became a believer. Well, enough of a believer to contribute much more than I should have to the campaign (but who didn't?), to co-host a fundraiser, to blog about Obama, and to get up at 5 am on Election Day to help get out the vote.

Recently, my friend left his lucrative job as a litigator and joined the Obama administration. He was sworn in this week as the president's Deputy Special Counsel for Ethics and Government Reform. The first executive order that Obama signed last week, on lobbyists, was written by him.

You have no idea how proud I am that this portfolio has been given to my friend, a modern orthodox Jew, and a real mentsh.

Yasher koah, Norm. You renewed not only my belief in the political system, and in the importance of getting involved in it. What you are doing is a real kiddush ha-Shem, a sanctification of God's name.

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