|Written by Ruby Ong|
1 June 2011
A Message from Daniel Sokatch
What was the best thing about attending the President’s “Jewish Heritage Month” event for community leaders at the White House two weeks ago?
It was certainly a great day for NIF, included as we were among the organizations that this Administration sees as representing the American Jewish community. In the midst of the challenges we face on the ground in Israel, as well as the often-divisive and increasingly vituperative Jewish communal debate about Israel in this country, it was extremely validating to be welcomed to the White House.
And as I talked to Administration officials, ambassadors and members of Congress, I was deeply moved and greatly encouraged by the way our NIF values, mission, and vision of Israel are shared by so many Jewish leaders in Washington DC today.
And it was an honor and a thrill to shake the hand of the President, who reiterated his commitment to a just and peaceful future for Israel and her neighbors, and to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Who, subsequently, calmly portrayed the risks, opportunities and realities facing the region, even when some of what he had to say was difficult for some in his audience to hear.
And of course it was fun to call my cousin on kibbutz in Israel from the East Wing to say “guess who I just had lunch with?”
But as I shook the President’s hand it occurred to me that the most amazing thing about the meeting was that it was taking place at all. That, more than two centuries after America’s founding, an African-American president welcomed a group of Jewish American leaders to the White House, under the gaze of a giant portrait of George Washington (who would undoubtedly have thought this the most unlikely gathering imaginable), and that it felt perfectly normal and right, and that, for all the tsooris, worry, and uncertainty that confront our country and world, this, too, is the reality of America in 2011.