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Jewish Journal

AP discovers rabbi related to Obama

by Brad A. Greenberg

September 17, 2008 | 1:45 pm

“Here’s something about Barack Obama you probably didn’t know,” the American leader in turning copy quickly reported yesterday. “He’s related to a rabbi.”

OK, aside from the lameness of that lede, which just as easily could have concluded “he hates french fries,” the fact that Michelle Obama is the first cousin of a black rabbi was, in fact, well known. It was thoroughly reported by The Forward two weeks ago, and followed by many others a week later.

Somehow, it’s news again. In case you are interested in the redux on the Obamas and Rabbi Capers C. Funnye Jr, it’s after the jump. I particularly like Funnye’s description of Obama—“very caring, a little skinny and very sincere.” Funnye’s Jewish alright.

In childhood, Funnye and Michelle Obama’s families visited each other almost monthly. Funnye’s mother and Michelle Obama’s father, who were closer in age, had a good relationship, Funnye said.

Funnye and Michelle Obama, 44, lost touch in later years, though he attended her wedding in 1992. They reconnected about a decade ago when Funnye started working at a social work organization based near the University of Chicago, where Michelle Obama worked.

Funnye said he met Barack Obama shortly before the future candidate married Michelle.

``He was very caring, a little skinny and very sincere,’’ Funnye said.

The Obamas have not publicized the connection to Funnye out of respect for the privacy of their large extended family, said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Michelle Obama.

Funnye said he sees the Obamas occasionally at family gatherings. The Obamas have never attended services at the stately tan brick synagogue of the Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in the city’s Marquette Park neighborhood.

Funnye’s relationship to the presidential candidate has been relatively unknown outside the Chicago Jewish community. The Forward, a Jewish newspaper, first reported the relationship.

``It was a total surprise to me,’’ said Ira Forman, the executive director of the National Democratic Jewish Council. ``Despite coming under attack unfairly in the Jewish community, Obama didn’t even mention this. I think it’s a piece of the puzzle that validates him.’‘

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