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Not quite the Kennedys: What the Emanuel ‘dynasty’ is missing

by Danielle Berrin

January 5, 2010 | 5:54 pm

In an article for The Daily Beast, Rebecca Dana weaves a darling web of family fortune that likens the Emanuels—parents Ben and Marsha, children Zeke, Rahm and Ari and their offspring—to the Kennedys. They are the “Jewish Kennedys” whom she triumphantly crowns the “next great American dynasty.”

It’s not a bad wager: Zeke, the eldest, is a senior adviser for health policy to the Obama Administration; middle-brother Rahm is the President’s Chief of Staff; and Ari, as Angelenos know, is one of Hollywood’s most powerful players as the head of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment agency.

But what’s a dynasty without a matriarch?

The Kennedys had several: from Rose to Jackie to Caroline to Carolyn to Maria. Of course Jackie stood out and became a shining emblem of all that the Kennedys represented—elegance, wealth, sophistication, power and beauty—and seemed to retain her status long after her husband died and she was no longer a “Kennedy.” 

Who among the Emanuels—a family built on aggressive brotherhood—could emerge to pattern the centripetal force that was Jackie O? I dare anyone to imagine what a Kennedy looks like and not see dark black sunglasses and multi-strand pearls. So far, the women in the Emanuel family exist only among their inner circle and are rarely seen, heard from or even mentioned (Dana’s story does not name any of the Emanuel wives, except for Marsha, their mother).

At the moment, the closest thing the Emanuels have to a burgeoning female star is Zeke’s eldest Rebekah, who graduated from Yale at the “tippy top” of her class, has won nearly every major humanities prize and “spent her post-collegiate years working with the Ugandan parliament to deal with gender-based crimes, studying how conflict-related bereavement impacts family members’ political activism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and investigating ways to improve care for the terminally ill in New Delhi.” It’s an impressive mouthful, and sounds like the caliber of activity a certain Clinton daughter embraced once she realized her family’s dynastic (at least politically) power.

The only trouble is, Rebekah wants no share of the spotlight: “The thing is, as I’m sure you’ll understand,” she wrote by email to the author, “I am in this funny spot of really being a private person and, recently, there has been plenty of media all of a sudden. I like to lead my life in the day-to-day happenings, joys, and challenges. It is important to me to remain simply a private person.”

Rebekah has two younger sisters of college age, but the rest of the Emanuel offspring are under 13. (And 13 being of age in Judaism brings news that Ari and Rahm will take their eldest sons, Noah and Zach to Israel this Spring for their Bar Mitzvahs.) There is one mysterious woman, however, that we know little about but who is closely tied to the family line—the Emanuels’ adopted sister, Shoshana—with whom the family has a “complex” relationship, according to the author and as it sounds, will probably not become a figurehead.

Other than that, Dana drives her point on the Kennedy comparison by matching up Ben and Marsha Emanuel with Joe and Rose Kennedy, who she says (with great seriousness) are alike in indulging their children’s “creative whims.”

When Ari—the youngest, future founder of the Endeavor talent agency, and model for Ari Gold on HBO’s Entourage—wanted to build an igloo with his brothers, Marsha gave over all her pots and pans for freezing blocks of ice. When Rahm—the middle child, future engineer of the Democrats’ 2006 takeover of Congress and President Obama’s chief of staff—wanted to get serious about ballet, Marsha drove him to class. When Zeke—the eldest, future bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health and leading voice for health-care reform—wanted to dissect cow parts, he got cow parts.

Now that’s a dynasty we should all want to be part of.

Read more at The Daily Beast here.

More Emanuels on Hollywood Jew:
Ari Emanuel: The Superagent
Ari Emanuel, A Mogul on the Rise
“West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin on his agent Ari Emanuel

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Danielle Berrin writes the Hollywood Jew blog, a cutting edge, values-based take on the entertainment industry for jewishjournal.com. A Los Angeles Times profile dubbed her...

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