From Bo Derek to Sheva Berakhot

In this article about Joel Kaplan, the latest Jewish appointment to the Bush White House, we learn that Chief of Joel KaplanStaff Josh Bolten not only dated Bo Derek but also recited the Sheva Berakhot at Joel Kaplan’s wedding earlier this year. Apparently, the new Deputy Chief of Staff also fulfills the mitzvah of lulav each year at the White House.

While Bolten and Kaplan appear to be the first one-two punch in the White House as Chief-of-Staff and Deputy Chief-of-Staff respectively, they are certainly not the first Jewish appointments for George W. Bush. In addition to Scooter Libby and Paul Wolfowitz who are both Jewish, Michael Chertoff (Secretary of Homeland Security) is the son of a Conservative rabbi. We also cannot forget about Bush’s former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. Here’s the complete list of Jewish members of the Bush White House.

Here is part of the article from the The complete article is here.

Bush’s new policy czar brings humor, command of details to job
By Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON, May 8 (JTA) — Joel Kaplan, President Bush’s new policy czar, brings to his job a disciplined adherence to the White House message.

Bush last month named Kaplan, 36, as deputy chief of staff in charge of day-to-day policy after deciding that his closest adviser, Karl Rove, needed to focus more on upcoming congressional elections. With Bush’s public support plummeting in opinion polls, Republicans face the real prospect of losing one or both houses of Congress in November.

Kaplan’s reputation after three years as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget was of someone able to simultaneously handle the big picture and master details – qualities that made him a good fit for one of the most grueling jobs in the administration.

“I tell everyone that you really have to have your stuff together before you go and meet with” Kaplan, said Tevi Troy, a senior adviser to Bush who was the White House liaison to the Jewish community until 2003. “He has a reputation for brilliance and really getting to the heart of the matter.”

Kaplan seemed both a natural choice for the policy job and something of a mystery. It seemed natural enough for Joshua Bolten, Bush’s new chief of staff, to bring over his most trusted aide from the Office of Management and Budget, where Bolten had been director. Bolten, who also is Jewish, recited the Sheva Brachot, traditional Jewish blessings, at Kaplan’s wedding earlier this year at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

On the other hand, Kaplan was an unknown quantity — unlike Bolten, who was known for his friendly relations with Congress and his onetime dalliance with Hollywood star Bo Derek.

Kaplan has made his presence felt in the new post with an easygoing manner.

“He has a lot of energy, a good sense of humor,” said Jay Zeidman, the White House Jewish liaison.

That sense of humor sometimes gets a little goofy.

In a January 2004 online session of “Ask the White House” on the topic of the budget, Kaplan showed an apt hand with statistics and projections, answering a question in heavy policy-wonk jargon.

Yet when someone asked Kaplan about his resemblance to Peter Frampton, he immediately posted a photo of the 1970s rock icon and said he had just bought a shirt like the silk number Frampton is wearing in the picture.

“As for my favorite Frampton song — I would go with ‘Show me the Way’ or ‘Day in the Sun,’ ” he added.

[…]Jones said Kaplan wanted to break away for a while from his middle-class upbringing in suburban Boston, where he attended Sunday school at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, Mass.

“We were graduates of liberal arts schools from the Northeast, a Jewish guy and a black guy,” said Jones, who now is a partner in a venture capital firm in the Washington area. “It was not your typical demographic, which is why we both did it — to get out of our comfort zone.”

Old friends say Kaplan’s seriousness stems in part from his Jewish commitment. Kaplan maintained his connection to his faith even while leading patrols on the U.S.-Mexico border or fighting wildfires in Washington state.

“We spoke about religion on a number of occasions,” said Brian O’Leary, who trained in artillery with Kaplan in Oklahoma and now is a money manager in New Jersey. “He’s very astute with respect to his own faith.”

Kaplan participates avidly in White House Jewish events, seeking out the rabbi in attendance on Sukkot to fulfill the mitzvah of the lulav and etrog. Most recently, he spoke at the executive office’s private Holocaust remembrance ceremony. “He spoke eloquently and thoughtfully” Zeidman said. “He carried the message of the importance of never forgetting.”

Jones said Kaplan’s Judaism is an essential part of his worldview.

“His core values are very much rooted in, as he terms it, the Judeo-Christian ethos, respect for the individual, respect for truth, honesty and loyalty,” he said. […]

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |


Even though Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) has passed, I want to suggest a great slideshow in honor of Israel’s 58th anniversary as a modern nation.

The slideshow can be accessed here.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |

Detroit Pistons might get an Israeli for summer league


Pistons want Burstein at NBA summer league
By Yoav Borowitz

NBA champion Detroit Pistons is planning to invite Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Tal Burstein to the summer league.

“I have known Tal for several years and I was very impressed by him at the European Championship in Serbia,” Detroit’s chief international scout, Tony Ronzone, said after Sunday’s Euroleague Final Four championship game.

Ronzone also summoned Yaniv Green to Detroit’s summer league two years ago, but said that Burstein’s chances of landing a contract were much higher.

“The invitation to Green was more of a gesture of good will, but our interest in Burstein is much more serious,” Ronzone said. “I really like his game. He is a versatile player and he makes the right decisions. I think he will be making the right move if he comes to show his talents in the summer league.”

Ronzone believes Burstein, 26, can find his place in the NBA as a role player. “It’s about time there was an Israeli in the league, and I would like to be the one to find him,” Ronzone said after last summer’s championship in Serbia.

Burstein has been with Maccabi for the past six years, but is reportedly the subject of interest among several European clubs, and is weighing the possibility of moving on when his contract expires at the end of the season.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |

Great article on Chancellor Arnie Eisen

Rabbi Jason Miller - Rabbi Mayer Rabinowitz with Chancellor Arnie EisenCBS News published a great article on Chancellor Designate Arnie Eisen today. I look forward to my first meeting with the new Chancellor on Monday when he will be in Detroit for the annual Detroit Friends of JTS Dinner where Chancellor Ismar Schorsch will speak.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |


Prepared by “The Israel Project

160 – The number of countries with which Israel has established diplomatic ties. That includes Muslim countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania and Qatar.

17 — The number of women who serve in Israel’s Knesset (Parliament).

10 — The number of Arabs who serve as serve as representatives in Israel’s democratically elected Knesset. One of the Arab representatives is a member of the Labor Party. A member of the Druze community also serves in the Knesset, in the ruling Kadima party.

1,113 — The number of Israelis who have been killed since Sept. 2000 by Palestinian violence and terrorist attacks. That includes 778 civilians and 335 security forces.

48,000 — The equivalent number of deaths in the United States.

FULL LIST: click on the right on “Israel by the Numbers”

“The Israel Project is an international organization devoted to educating the press and the public about Israel while promoting security, freedom and peace.”

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |

Red Wings are done for the year

Yes, it’s true. Anything can happen in the playoffs. But when your team has the best record in the NHL and loses quickly in the first round… it’s pretty sad.

At least we still have our Detroit Pistons.

Should Steve Yzerman hang up his skates for the last time – as he probably will – he will be remembered as an inspirational player, team leader, Hall of Famer, and a mentsch.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |

Brandeis University to Give Tony Kushner Honorary Doctorate


The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), which includes Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis among its former presidents, criticized Brandeis University for planning to give anti-Zionist playwright Tony Kushner an honorary doctorate at its commencement on Sunday, May 21, 2006.

In the book, “Conversation,’ edited by Robert Vorlicky (University of Michigan Press, 1998, pp. 83-84), Kushner said, “The biggest supporters of Israel are the most repulsive members of the Jewish community and Israel itself has got this disgraceful record. Israel is a creation of the U.S., bought and paid for.”

Kushner has also made other numerous egregious statements viciously condemning Israel and decrying its very existence. He called Israel’s founding a “mistake,” saying “it would have been better if Israel never happened.” He also condemned Israel for “ethnic cleansing” and “behaving abominably and denounced, “the shame of American Jews for failing to denounce Israel.”

Kushner also “deplored the brutal and illegal tactics of the IDF [Israel Defense Forces]” and “the deliberate destruction of Palestinian culture and a systematic attempt to destroy the identity of the Palestinian people.” He is also on the board of an organization that supports
boycotting Israel and divesting from Israel, [and that] opposes the security fence, a unified Jerusalem, or military aid to Israel.

[The ZOA leaders] said, “We urge Brandeis to rescind the honorary doctorate you plan to present to Tony Kushner. Don’t enhance the reputation of anti-Zionist activist like Kushner, which will only diminish the reputation of Brandeis.”

Brandeis Press Release

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |