Jewish Politics

Rahmbo Heads Back to White House

Back in April I wrote how Rahm Emanuel was theorized by Newsweek Magazine to be the one to urge Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race on behalf of Barack Obama. That Newsweek article connected the dots from Rahm Emanuel (known as “Rahmbo”) to Barack Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod by mentioning that Axelrod was a witness for Rahm Emanuel’s wedding ketubah.

Now, Rahm Emanuel is back in the news as the first appointment President-Elect Obama has made. Yesterday morning, Rahm Emanuel accepted Obama’s offer to become the Chief of Staff for the Obama administration. Emanuel will resign his congressional seat for this new position.

Of course, the talk throughout the Jewish community has turned from uncertainty about the Obama administration to elation over having a trusted advisor like Rahm Emanuel in the West Wing. Emanuel was a senior advisor to President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1998 and was even the inspiration for the character Josh Lyman on television show The West Wing. (Not to be outdone, his brother Ari is the inspiration behind superagent Ari Gold on HBO’s Entourage)

Rahm Emanuel has a wonderful reputation in the Jewish community as a strong friend of Israel and a dedicated member of the community. Since President-Elect Obama tapped him for this post, I’ve heard several comments of pride from fellow rabbis and friends. His rabbi and former Torah study partner (in the White House!), Rabbi Jack Moline, praises him for his commitment to his family and his strong value system. In Chicago, he mainly attends Shabbat services at Anshei Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation in Lakeview. The rabbi there, Rabbi Asher Lopatin, has been an advisor to Emanuel along with other Chicago rabbis Michael Siegel and Debra Newman Kamin.

Michael Kotzin, executive vice president of the Jewish United Fund-Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago explained in the Jerusalem Post, “If [Rahm Emanuel] goes to the White House, he’ll be going to serve the president – but Israel will have a friend in the White House.”

Emanuel is actually not his family’s original last name. Rahm’s father replaced the family name “Auerbach” with his brother Emanuel’s name after Emanuel was killed in an Arab uprising in Palestine in 1936. This was done to keep Rahm Emanuel’s uncle’s memory alive.

Rahm Emanuel will be the third Jew to serve as White House chief of staff, but the first in a Democratic administration (Josh Bolten served under President George W. Bush and Ken Duberstein served under President Ronald Reagan).

Personally, I believe that having a Jewish chief of staff serve our nation’s first Black president will be a very positive contribution to Black-Jewish relations in our country. I wish Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel much luck as he serves our country and our new President.

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