Jewish Journal


July 10, 2003

Weil Delivers Bush Invocation


Friday-night fundraising dinner is the last place you'd expect to find an Orthodox rabbi. But Rabbi Steven Weil of Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills recently raced the clock in the hours before Shabbat to open for the president of the United States.

Weil kicked off Bush's June 27 re-election campaign dinner at the Westin Century Plaza Hotel with a firebrand invocation based on King Solomon's sage leadership advice from Proverbs.

"A leader will enable his country, his world through the establishment of justice," Weil said, adding that "in a world where the leadership of the U.N. and the members of the European community have failed to achieve this divine objective ... our president has been the leading voice, and led our nation by example in his fight for justice."

A lifelong Republican who grew up in "Jack Kemp country" -- upstate New York -- Weil seized on the Solomon theme to also take a swipe at protesters camped outside of the event.

"The same King Solomon who, in Ecclesiastes, spoke of a time for peace and a time for love also spoke of a time for war and a time to challenge and confront those who despise love and peace," Weil told the primarily Christian audience.

In his concluding remarks, Weil said that the events and policies of this decade will set the tone for the rest of the century.

"We pray to the Almighty that He give our leader the courage, the strength to continue to establish justice in a world that has inhabitants who have forgone that principle," he said.

Comedian Dennis Miller, who introduced Bush following Weil's invocation, couldn't help but take a crack at the rabbi's passionate parlance.

"Wow, who put the dynamite in the rabbi's dreidel?" Miller said. "He must have been sick and tired of seeing Arafat and Clinton walking hand in hand together at Camp David."

The rabbi's invitation to speak at the fundraiser followed a visit he paid Bush last Chanukah to discuss the situation in Israel. Weil said his first visit to the White House was for a prayer breakfast during the Clinton administration.

Despite the glitz and glamour of the June 27 event, Weil didn't ignore orders from the commander in chief on high.

"We made it back in time for Shabbos," he said.

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