May 28, 2010
L.A. Jews on their Obama schmooze
A prominent cohort of American Jews were at the White House yesterday for President Obama’s Jewish Heritage celebration—and the L.A. contingent was well represented by some of the city’s most accomplished Jews, including Rabbis David Wolpe and Sharon Brous, Jumpstart co-founder Shawn Landres, J-Dub records CEO Aaron Bisman, Challah for Hunger founder Eli Winkelman and Lou Cove, the executive director of Reboot.
Much has been made of this inaugural event given its timing (Obama’s Jewish approval rating is at its lowest ever) and the growing perception that the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is imperiled. But really, L.A. attendees report, it was just fun.
Landres praised the White House for bringing together a diverse group representing both the past and future of Jewish life in America.
“The best part of being there was being with producers of contemporary Jewish American heritage,” Landres said. He was referring, of course, to many of his fellow Angelenos—including Brous, Bisman and Winkelman and their relatively young contributions to American Jewish life. “Ten years ago none of this existed,” he said of IKAR, J-Dub Records and Challah for Hunger. “That the White House recognized that is a testimony to their accomplishments and a recognition that Jewish life in America is not only about that past, it’s also about the future.”
For Brous, it was President Obama’s address that made an impression. “What moved me was when he said something about how Jews who have experienced a history replete with tragedy and oppression have responded to life not with cynicism, despair and indifference, but with a positive and a firm commitment to building a better future for the Jewish people and for all people.”
Brous interpreted Obama’s message as praise for the Jewish imperative to respond to injustice with moral obligation. “He said that the Jewish people have pioneered extraordinary advances in art, medicine, science and business, but that the most extraordinary thing about the American Jewish contribution is not those things, but the way the Jewish people have this dedication to opening the eyes of the world to injustice, and engaging in the struggle for human dignity, and how that’s not only shaped the ethos of the Jewish community but has had a profound affect on the ethos of America as a nation.”
Wolpe limned his thoughts on the event for the Huffington Post:
Read JTA’s report on the White House reception here.
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