Washington – Op-Ed: An Evening at The White House


    VP Biden with The West Point Jewish Chapel Cadet Choir, also known as Kol Masoret, the Voice of Tradition, is an arm of the of the U.S. Military Academy’s Jewish Chapel and Hillel, at the Hanukkah party Dec. 8 2011Washington – This past Thursday night at The White House, politics came to stand still for one brief, shining moment as a cross section of Jews from across the United States came to celebrate Chanukah and perhaps more than just that. I decided to share with the Vinnews readership the extraordinary feeling of inclusion as I entered the South West gates of the White House.

    Indeed for those of us who appreciate history, entering the White House to the singing of traditional Chanukah melodies is an acknowledgment of how far our community has come from the dark days of the Holocaust when our Rabbis were not allowed anywhere near the interior of the White House to plead on behalf of our forefathers who were being killed by the millions. To those of you who know to what I am referring to, you what I am talking about. To those that don’t know, it is important for you to find out.

    Video below of the scene in the white house in the Hanukkah party.

    Those were the emotions that accompanied me as the Secret Service waved me through and we entered the White House……if only then, if only then…………… Yes, symbolism is important–in many ways that is the message of Chanukah when we display our symbols for the world to see!

    There are many ways to be a host and many ways to be a guest. Thursday night at the White House I saw an extraordinary display of unity……a night bereft of politics, partisanship, or division. Jews of all stripes, Republicans, Democrats and Independents and indeed of all levels of observance, all gathered together to acknowledge that we are all Jews who are grateful to these United States for the privilege of practicing our religion.

    Yes, indeed, that was what the evening represented. A White House that hosted an evening Glatt Kosher L’mehadrin is a testament and a strong statement that we, the Jewish people, can observe unhindered, but even more so–we can contribute to our Nation without conflicts.
    (L-R) US first lady Michelle Obama, U.S. President Barack Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, and US Vice President Joe Biden deliver remarks at the White House during a Hanukkah reception, in Washington, DC, USA, 08 December 2011. The reception helped recognize and celebrate the Jewish tradition also known as the Festival of Lights.  EPA/Win McNamee / POOL AFP OUTSo it wasn’t just the opportunity to eat on White House china and utensils kashered under the supervision of Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Executive VP of American Friends of Lubavitch of Washington, DC, whose emphasis on Pas Yisroel and Chasidiha shichtia indicated that the cuisine was permitted, but it is sending us a message that we can prosper in these United States and conduct ourselves in the same fashion as individuals whose observance is the centrality of our lives.

    So when President Obama welcomed us to the White House, I sensed not only the aura of being regaled but the awesome responsibility that comes along with it. Perhaps my appreciation of history caused my emotions to overtake my. Either way, I was standing in line to greet the President of the United States–a man whose decisions effect mankind can cause one to feel in awe.

    What I did not expect was what the Military Social Aide asked my wife and I, as we were approaching the receiving line: “are you shomer nigiah?” explaining that if so our photo takings would be handshaking with the President and First Lady respectively. To be honest, I did not expect this level of courtesy. This level of detail reflected something very unusual but very positive: that we as Orthodox Jews have not only the right to be fully observant but indeed are obligated to do so.
    Friedlander Group CEO, Ezra Friedlander showing Vice President Joe Biden the Raoul Wallenberg Congressional Gold Medal Status Report of Congressional Co-Sponsors. at the Hanukkah party Dec. 8 2011
    The President and First Lady could not have been more gracious or welcoming. In the few seconds that we all got to share private time with the President, we had the opportunity to tell him whatever was on our mind. I thought long and hard about what to say, realizing that it is extremely difficult and perhaps inappropriate to address a particular issue or advocate for something in particular. Having discussed this with my father, the Liska Rov Shlita, I decided to convey a brocha for “divine inspiration as he leads our Nation and is confronted with decisions that impact humanity”.

    The President was introspective, he listened to me and then thanked me and asked me “where I’m from” and wished me a Happy Holiday.

    Upon taking leave of the President we returned upstairs to the State Dining Room mingling with the guests. Vice President Biden was also the gracious host that greeted everyone warmly and spent an inordinate amount of time making everyone feeling “literally” at home.

    We had many opportunities to schmooze that night. In light of my conscience telling me that I too have a responsibility to use this opportunity to advocate for a pressing issue, I decided to respectfully mention Jonathan Pollard. I excused myself saying this is perhaps not the venue but I just wanted to remember him tonight. To be respectful of the Vice President’s agreeing to talk with me, I will only say that I walked away with a positive feeling.

    Again, I want to stress to the readership that I was conflicted on whether to raise the issue and the reason that put it over the top is the knowledge that officials keep track of conversations and the pulse of the community and an event that included a cross section of our community’s leadership should include mentioning of his name which I thought is an obligation upon me and perhaps even allowed within the spirit of addressing our nation’s leadership with what is on our minds.

    All in all, it was a sobering experience that imparted an important lesson to me: be proud of who you are and try to be a better Jew. It demonstrated that Jarrod Bernstein, the White House Director of Jewish Outreach ‘gets it’ and knows how to advocate for the community—a very burdening task to represent the President of the United States. In 1944, we didn’t have a President who initiated his remarks with acknowledging his director of Jewish Outreach; in 2011 we have the President of the United States acknowledging Jarrod Bernstein as the new director of Jewish Outreach at the White House.

    Indeed, the world stood still for me while in the White House, yet I am under no allusions that the overwhelming challenges facing our community and the world are still at large, but someone who would consider himself a student of history, this was an evening of reflection not just an opportunity to eat Glatt Kosher lamb chops in the East Room of the White House. For others it might have meant something else, but for everyone it was an evening to thank the President of the United States for making us feel special to be Jewish and for that we have to be eternally grateful!

    Ezra Friedlander, is CEO of The Friedlander Group a NYC and Washington DC, based public affairs consulting group which is now spearheading the effort to award Raoul Wallenberg with a Congressional Gold Medal in light of his upcoming centennial in 2012, recognizing his heroism in saving over 100,000 Jews in the waning days of the Holocaust.

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    1. There was also a Director of Jewish Outreach in the White House in 1985, when then President Ronald Reagan decided to make his infamous trip to the Nazi Cemetery at Bitburg, Germany. Hence, there isn’t really any correlation with having someone in that position, and preventing such blunders from occurring.

    2. Re; “Yes, indeed, that was what the evening represented. A White House that hosted an evening Glatt Kosher L’mehadrin is a testament and a strong statement that we, the Jewish people, can observe unhindered, but even more so—we can contribute to our Nation without conflicts. “

      Here we go again. I guess Yidden sh’b’chol dor v’dor repeat the same mistakes until they learn . . . Ain lanu ela avinu hebashomayim & Al tischaber l’rashus. And why? Because in the end after all is said and done . . . we know what the bal hagadah tells us the ending of “sh’b’chol dor v’dor- omdim alainu l’chalosainu!”

      • the jews also made chanifa to hitler yms”h, the jews voted in hitler, and what did it help them? same is obama, dont chanfa that hint, he will bite back at us!

        • Either you are demented or suffer from incipient senility. Under Hndenburg the Nazis , specifically the brown shirts attacked Jews and to make this statement shows how little you know about history.

        • The nonsense of your posting can be found if you check the number of Jews compared to the total Gwerman population and calculate you will find what nonsense your posting is

    3. I have heard many nice things about Jarrod Bernstein and I know first hand that he has a tremedous sense of responsibility in terms of advocating for our community so all you naysayers out there should just take a deep breath and relax cause you know nothing besides sharing your ignorant politics

    4. Every year, the American President lights a menorah on Chanukah at the White House. But not Barack Obama, not this year. Nope. He “celebrated” the Jewish holiday two weeks early. Huh? Hmmm . . . funny, I don’t seem to recall the Ramadan Iftar dinners he hosted for Muslim NFL players and Dearbornistan high school football coaches taking place two weeks before Ramadan. Because that would be an insult to Muslims and Islam, and he goes out of his way to make sure to pander to every single detail when it comes to them, the fellow co-religionists of his brother and most of his family. But when it comes to the Judeo-Christian holidays of a Judeo-Christian nation, there’s no problem insulting the evil JOOOOOOS. Normally, as I’ve said repeatedly before, the President lighting Chanukah candles isn’t important to me. What he does in foreign policy is more important than lame, staged attempts to show he’s down wit’ da Jewish struggle in a very cubic zirconium way.

      • “Because that would be an insult to Muslims and Islam, and he goes out of his way to make sure to pander to every single detail when it comes to them, the fellow co-religionists of his brother and most of his family.”

        Give me a break! You have GOT to be kidding me, right?! Do you even realize that this man is the President of the Unites States?! And you’re upset because this year, he was forced to fit the Channukah party in w\all his other NUMEROUS holiday gatherings he’s expected to go to, not to mention run the country AND babysit the congress, who apparently isn’t getting ANYTHING done?! And you complain?!

        What a whiner! No offense… but it’s people like you who would be screaming from the rafters if he DIDN’T celebrate Channukah or pay any attention to it! Hello! (lol)

        So they throw this nice, lavish party, pay totally attention & respect to the Jewish laws & customs when entertaining their guests, AND I might add… Obama probably won’t even be able to spend x-mas w\his OWN family this year because of the pay-roll tax cut fight…

        And you COMPLAIN anyway?!?!

        I give up! Just move to Israel if you hate the man so much!

        • You know Sherry that the last line of your tirade is one used by anti-semites when they can’t deal with Jewish people in a more civil manor…..I would have thought that you would know better…well now you do!

          • Come on man… I see people on here disrespecting this country & it’s policies ALL THE TIME, and I usually don’t make a beep about it! (Obviously, as an American, I take issue w\how this country gets ran at times as well!)

            But there’s also the saying: “Love It or Leave It”, and I believe that ought to apply in some cases, when you are LIVING IN the very same country who took your people in, pay respects to your community in their White House, and whom you are now complaining about!

            Tell me poster #7 wouldn’t have compained had Obama done NOTHING for Channukah… and I’ll eat my hat! (lol) Of course people like this complain about EVERYTHING, if it’s not always directly beneficial to the Jewish people, and I think it’s a little unfair, considering this is AMERICA, and not Israel!

            To complain about policies, the gov’t, etc… hey, we all do that! But to constantly bemoan the very country you live in, and that gives you the rights to gripe in the 1st place, and especially when the head of State is trying to reach out to your people…

            You know, forgive me if I think this kind of attitude can sometimes be quite a slap in the face!

            • Sherry, you go on and on but dance around directly answering my comment about your words which I feel were in very poor taste. I have noticed that you tend to avoid answering some of my past questions…nice tactic but you score no points with me. Typical liberal way..go on a tirade but avoid the main point. Maybe politics should be something to consider…you dance well. Have a nice day!!!

        • when you move to Israel you boycott the police and throw dirty diapers on the Zionist antisemitic police, that is how you do it but you don’t enlist in the IDF and collect welfare

    5. This is on top of his non-kosher Passover stunt Seder. Do ya think he’d host a Ramadan Iftar dinner that wasn’t halal? Puh-leeze. Below is a video of this BS. While we Jews don’t have mass-murdering riots when someone shows a little skin, I have a question: do you think that Michelle Hussein Obama wore a sleeveless outfit, which would offend Muslims, for the Ramadan Iftar dinner? Dream on. And again, the Ramadan affair was held on Ramadan. Thanks Obama. If you’re not gonna do Chanukah right, don’t do it at all, schmuck.

      • Michelle Obama sleeveless outfit” Have you ever seen a muslim protest, demonstration? The women dressed modestly and seperated from the men. Jewish Israel day Parade, even frum Dinners, many women dressed worse than Michellee Hussein Obama. Channukah Party in the white house was for all Jews not only Willi and Lakewood.

      • #7+8 and similar
        Yeah. And I have heard that the suit President Obama was wearing failed a shatnes test, too. Come on!
        How is this any different from all of the organizations, INCLUDING SYNAGOGUES, that run “model seders” well before the actual start of Pesach? It’s an acknowledgement and a demonstration. That’s all. We should appreciate the attempt and the effort. Or maybe they are not really synagogues because they’re not frum enough.

        The anti-Obama people need to give it a rest already. Gimme a break.

      • The last sentence of this post referring to the President of the United States (even if you don’t like or agree with him) is a disgrace, a shonde, and I’m surprised that the Esteemed Moderators of this blog permit it.

    6. Honestly, does abama reallý have a choice? We gotta give credit to the first president hosting a chanukah party, now its standerd protocol, och in vie if he does not!!!

      And BTW, what’s this party 2 weeks before chanuka?? Does he also do the turky pardoning 2 weeks before thanksgiving???

      I’m not impressed!!

    7. Dear Mr. Friedlander:
      It seems that you’re very excited that you attended the White House Chanukkah party for the first time and want to make sure that everyone knows about it. First let me inform you, yes, we all know that you attended the party, yay for Ezra Friedlander–he got a photo with Vice President Joe Biden! Yay!

      As you portay yourself “a student of history,” let me give you a history lesson. These Chanukkah parties at the White House have been going on way before you were born, and yes, with “glatt kosher l’mehadrin” food. I myself have been very fortunate to attend 2 during the Clinton years, 3 under President Bush and 1 of President Obama’s Chanukkah parties. I’m not exactly sure why Vos Iz Neias is even posting this article, other than Ezra Friedlander wanting to let everyone know that he was there. Yay

      • Oh-uh, Middos Alert – Someone seems to be a wee little jealous. Frankly, I think it was a very nice article, an appreciation to this great country for all that they’ve done for us Jews. Yes, no matter if it was two weeks early, it still deserves our appreciation.

        Thank you Mr. Friedlander, and thank you Hashem for granting us such a Medinah Shel Chessed on this (hopefully) last stop of our long Golus.


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