Washington – Obama Honors Jewish Americans at White House Reception


    Los Angeles Dodgers Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Sandy Koufax is greeted by President Barack Obama at an event honoring Jewish American Heritage Month in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)Washington – Did you hear the one about the African-American president and Jewish-American baseball legend who were in the East Room of the White House for a reception?

    The president tells the audience that he and Sandy Koufax have something in common.

    “We are both lefties. He can’t pitch on Yom Kippur. I can’t pitch.”

    It was a bit of Jewish humor from President Barack Obama in welcoming remarks at what he said was the first-ever White House reception observing Jewish American Heritage Month.

    “This is a pretty fancy … pretty distinguished group,” he said of the invited guests, which included members of the House and Senate, two justices of the Supreme Court, Olympic athletes, entrepreneurs, Rabbinical scholars, “and Sandy Koufax.” The mention of his name brought the biggest cheer at the event.
    Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, center, sits with Vice President Joe Biden, right, and Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., as President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama hold an event honoring Jewish American Heritage Month in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
    The president spoke of “the diversity of talents and accomplishments” that reflect the Jewish-American heritage dating back to pre-Revolutionary times.

    “Even before we were a nation, we were a sanctuary for Jews seeking to live without the specter of violence or exile,” said Mr. Obama citing “a band of 23 Jewish refugees to a place called New Amsterdam more than 350 years ago.”

    And in the 21st century, the president hailed the U.S. relationship with the Jewish State.

    “Our bond with Israel is unbreakable,” he told the reception, five days before he is to have a fence-mending round of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.

    Mr. Obama likened the U.S. pursuit of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians to the Hebrew principle of Tikkun Olam, the obligation to repair the world.

    The president said that the Jewish people’s belief that a better future is always possible should be a lesson for all Americans.

    Obama honored the contributions American Jews have made in the arts, music, sports and other fields.

    There were no other stabs at or tributes to Jewish humor by Mr. Obama. Although his Congressional guest list at the event did include former Saturday Night Live comic – and now Senator, Al Franken.

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    1. I was told by an old timer from my block that this Sandy Koufax guy used to live in Boro park at 54St and 14th ave,and attended the public school that was on that corner that is now the satmar beth ruchel school. so much for intresting important celebrities who we do or dont know that they grew up in our streets 🙂

      • we need the gas to go down not up 8/01/10 make bp pay for it not the peopel or go up on smokes or beer not gas the gas is high at $2.49 go down obama need to no wate la.is doing 70072 700427 70401 zip cod. we will not right with the people it need to go down to $2.10 for gas not $5.00 for gas people will walk we sale hr. cars to obama or. bp to buy if the gas go up it hard now for gas the money do not on tree so tell obama to give more money to us if the gas go up or bp it not right for us for want bp did people on ssi ssn can not come up with the money for gas so tell bp or obama to do it not the people in the un. to do his work

    2. He came to my shul on that “famous” Yom Kippur that he did not play ball. You should have seen the oilam. Some goy looking guy walks into the shul (after parking his car right outside the door) looks around and takes a seat right in the middle of the shul just behind the bima. In those days it was a chasidishe shtibel but with a mixture of shtramlech, black hats, 1 spudik, and a lot of Polish some Hungarian and the Ruv was Romanian. Since I was the gabe then I walked up to him asked him if he needed a siddur, a machzor, a talis, whatever. In those days there was no artscrol and we didn’t have any English sedurim or machzors. He pulled out some kind of English “Prayer Book” and davened from that. He stayed until Yom Tov was over had some lekach and orange juice to break the fast and left.

      No one in the shul knew who he was until we saw his picture in the newspaper the next day with the headline “Koufax takes off for Jewish High Holiday”.

    3. Tikkun Oilam is a manufactured item, as is not mentioned in jewish literature (and yes I know the gomoro says it but thats a different context). It is from R’ Soloveichik the father of Modern Orthodoxy.

      • “Tikkun Olam” (perfecting the world) was coined long ago and has begun to enter ththe English language. Dr. Eugene Korn noted that then Governor Mario Cuomo used the term in speaking to the New York State Legislature.” Tikkun Olam, says Dr. Korn, “means taking responsibility for the material, moral and spiritual welfare of society-at-large.”
        The concept (and obligation) of Tikkun Olam has evolved over the millennia. As used in the Mishnah, the phrase is legalistic and referred to a practice that while not Biblically mandated, was decreed by the Rabbis as being necessary in the public interest, “to make the world a better place. “
        In the Oleinu prayer l’takken olam b’malkhut Shaddai, means “to perfect the world under God’s sovereignty.”
        In the Zohar , the foundational work of Kabbalah, tikkun olam takes center-stage.Lurianic Kabbalah, identified with my wife’s illustrious lineal ancestor, Rabbi Isaac (Yitzhak) ben Shlomo Ashkenazi Luria teaches that God did not finish creating the world by the time He rested for the Sabbath. He left the world partly unfinished. He left disease and poverty, drought, starvation and injustice. Perfecting God’s universe is man’s task.

        • Tikun Olam as expressed in the Oleinu prayer means to perfect the “helem” hidden nature of Hashem’s hashgocho protis that we don’t “see” because we are looking at the world with corporeal eyes instead of Torah’dik intellectual eyes. The Jewish nation’s agenda and responsibility in golus is to “fix” the broken areas of holy spirituality and to open the hidden nature of Hashem to the world. Hashem did not leave the world unfinished. According to the Maharal he purposely made the world flawed in order that Man, in particular Yisroel, should accomplish Tikun Olam. This flaw manifests itself as situations that call for doing something good or holy such as Torah, Avoda, and Gemilas Chasodim. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, spiritual nature does too. If we don’t do good or holy then impure and evil run in and take over. That is what Tikun Olam is according to Oleinu, al pi Ari Zal and Maharal Zal.

      • It is found in the Mishnah in Gittin (actually Tikun HaOlam) and indeed has a far different meaning than that used today by the heterodox movements — a meaning that in many respects is far more radical in that it involved working around or even modifying halachah because of great communal need!

        While Rav Soloveitchik z’tz’l did speak often about the requirement that Jews actively work to improve conditions in the world around us and not just the Jewish community; I’m not aware of Rav Soloveitchik using the specific term Tikun Olam. Do you have a source? Thanks!

      • The concept dates back before the world was created. It is mentioned numerous times in Kabbalistic literature. Specifically regarding the concept of “Shviras Hakeilim”

    4. Obama is a pr wizard. He realizes he messed up with the Jews and he realizes he can’t afford to estrange us so he is running circles trying to fix the mess he made. I do believe he is going to ingratiate himself with the Moslems by doing so, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. 

    5. This event had been scheduled long-before the current tensions on policies governing the settlements and is a continuation of similiar events held by prior presidents. I doubt it changed any minds on policy issues but was a nice gesture and will hopefully defuse some of the current distrust. At least we don’t have any modern day n’aviim running around claiming that the Gulf Oil Leak was the result of hashem’s anger with Obama’s mid=eastern policy.

    6. Most of the readers here probably don’t understand the tremendous impact Sandy Koufax made on the assimilated American Jewish community when he refused to pitch in the World Series in 1965. It was very, very inspiring to unobservant Jews that a successful Yid would show the Gentiles that he is a Yid and would observe our Torah with utter disregard for money, success, etc.

      Ask any secular American Jew aged 50 or older what Koufax’s act meant to him.

      • I’m a religious American Jew, age 52. Koufax refusing to pitch is my very first real Jewish memory. (Decades later, as an adult, I found out that he had refused to pitch on Yom Kippur the following year as well; it wasn’t the World Series but it was in a hot pennant race and the Dodgers lost to the Chicago Cubs that day. Hank Greenburg had also refused to play on Yom Kippur in 1934.)

        • I also have similar memories, but I am 62. An interesting aside is that the person who pitched that day for Koufax was Don Drysdale who had a terrible day. When the manager replaced him Drysdale said to Alson the manager: I guess you wish that I was Jewish too.

      • Sandy Koufax was not the first Jewish sports celebrity to make such a public statement. Hank Greenberg also declined to play on Yom Kippur. Of course nowadays the regular season has been so extended that the playoffs and World Series do not occur until long after Sukkos!

      •   “this Sandy Koufax guy” ? The pride of Yiddeshkiet a sample givining someting away from yourself to hashem. Burich hamekadish shem shoumieyem BORABIM.

    7. I only said this “guy cause I didnt know he was a such a famous guy” I am a lady yenta that didnt grow up here in america a that time,but,, it sure was very intresting to come a cross a eldery couple who were just looking around my house and the next and i had to go ask them what was so intresting , they said they came to vist boro park and see how it changed they live now in a diffent satate and had come to new york to vist so they came to vist they street on 54 where they lived some 50 years ago, ,, they then told me about this Sandy Koufax and many others . just had to say that , the min i saw the name i figured let me tell everyone he used to be here and lived here, a git shabbos to all,

    8. The White House kitchen was kashered by mashgichim under the supervision of the Vaad of Washington, with Rabbi Shemtov of Chabad participating as well…

    9. Hayim Salomon financed the Revolutionary War. Without him George Washington would not have had sufficient provisions to win. It is disgraceful that it is ignored steadily by all Presidents. To commerorate the highest jewish contribution to America as a Baseball player indicates that all other denominations overshadowed us. Hardly. If Einstein hadn’t revealed to the President the potential of the atom bomb, we may have lost WWII.But the study of Torah is what’s keeping America on top right now.


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