By Donald Ray Schwartz
In days gone by, in the time of a liminal event such as a presidential inauguration, it was common for nervous Jewish people to ask, “Iss dos goot fer der Yidin?” Is this good for the Jews?
When it comes to President Joe Biden, my answer is an unequivocal yes.
Biden will be the president for all Americans: Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, people of color and refugees. Jews will have much to do with national and international affairs.
Devotees of the former occupant of the Oval Office may feel that Israel might not have as much support from the new president, but Joe Biden has Jewish connections and sympathies toward our co-religionists here and abroad, and he supports Israel.
When it comes to Israel, Biden has a close relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu. (During the Obama-Biden administration, the U.S. agreed to give Israel $38 billion in military assistance, the largest military aid package the U.S. had ever given.) Biden’s appointee for ambassador has also stated the embassy will remain in Jerusalem.
Kamala Harris, our intrepid vice president, is married to Douglas Emhoff, our second gentleman. Emhoff’s two Jewish children, Cole and Ella, from a previous marriage, regard their stepmom as “Momale,” the sobriquet they awarded her following the wedding. Now accomplished adult children, with pride and honor they stood with their stepmom and dad during her swearing-in ceremony. Harris said of her stepchildren, “They are brilliant, talented, funny kids who have grown to be remarkable adults. I was already hooked on Doug, but . . . it was Cole and Ella who reeled me in.”
The president himself has Jewish grandchildren, from his two sons, Hunter and Beau, and a daughter, Ashley.
Chuck Schumer, the Jewish senator of New York, is now the highest-ranking elected Jewish official ever. Perchance more than anyone, he tolerated Mitch McConnell’s refusal to allow important issues and bills to be forwarded for a vote. When another Jewish senator, Jon Ossoff (as well as Rev. Raphael Warnock) were sworn in to their Senate seats, the Senate became evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, meaning that Harris, as Senate president, will hold the tie-breaking vote. For the first time, the majority leader is Jewish and his colleague upon the dais has a Jewish husband and Jewish stepchildren.
In no small measure, Biden has also appointed Jewish people to cabinet, security and other positions of national and international import. These include Ron Klain, White House chief of staff; Merrick Garland (who would have been a brilliant Supreme Court Justice, but for McConnell’s hypocritical manipulation) for attorney general; Blinken, secretary of state; Wendy Sherman, for deputy secretary of state; Janet Yellen, Treasury security; and many, many more. With Schumer in attendance, there could be held a(n) (egalitarian) minyan.
To close: Biden made frequent trips to synagogue minyans and services in Wilmington, Del., with “his Rabbi,” Leonard Gewirtz, z”l. His other Delaware rabbi friend, Michael Beals, in interpretation of the week’s parshah, pointed out, for him, Biden’s rise to the Oval Office arrived as we read b’nai Yisrael’s journey out of slavery in Egypt to liberty.
The priestly benediction that Beals administered to Biden, ends with these words:
May the Lord bless you and keep you/May the Lord cause His/Her countenance to shine upon you/May the Lord be gracious to you and bring you peace.
May peace come in our time.
Donald Ray Schwartz is a well-published author. He lives in Mt. Washington with his wife, Ann, and they are members of Moses Montifiore, where he teaches classes for adults. He is an associate professor of speech, theatre and mass communication at the Community
College of Baltimore County (retired).