The State of the State:
For Orthodox Jewish Leaders There’s Plenty of Room for Dining
We all have what to be grateful for. President Trump is grateful that he finally gets to put the Mueller Report behind him, the vice president is grateful that his boss recognizes a National Day of Prayer in a manner that his predecessor didn’t, and Ami’s Shloime Zionce is grateful that he was granted entry to the White House’s State Dining Room last Wednesday to cover the National Day of Prayer Dinner. A handful of Jewish leaders, including Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Rabbi Abba Cohen, Nathan Diament, Rabbi Yechezkel Moskowitz and Ezra Friedlander were invited to join the dinner.
While this isn’t the first time the White House offered kosher meals to Jewish invitees, it’s the first time, to my knowledge, that the White House invited representatives of the Jewish community to participate in the National Day of Prayer Dinner with POTUS.
Friedlander, who was seated next to Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, remarked to him: “The impetus for me getting involved in politics was when, as a kid, I read about the 400 rabbis who sought out a meeting with FDR and couldn’t even get in the front door. And now, here I am, enjoying a kosher dinner at the White House.”
For Rabbi Yechezkel Moskowitz, Director of the Tent Project and President of the Jewish Heritage Preservation Society, the religious tolerance was something worth being grateful for.
“There were some leaders from the Muslim community seated at my table,” Moskowitz told Ami, “which is something I found to be intriguing. Especially since when people think of Democrats in this country they think of people like Congressmembers Tlaib and Omar. And here I found myself sitting next to moderate Muslims who are in line with the president’s vision for this country.”
Within the State Dining Room, a combination of candles and dimmed chandeliers set the mood, as drawn curtains kept any natural lighting at bay. Vice President Pence delivered his remarks, and then a blast of “Hail to the Chief” ushered in the president, who spoke to the crowd for a little under seven minutes.
“We will be a nation that believes forever,” the president says, “and we certainly believe more than anyone in the power of prayer, the most powerful thing there is.”
A big theme of the president’s speech was the violence against houses of worship around the world, and he made particular mention of recent attacks against Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities.
“Violence and terrorism against people of all faiths must end and it must end now,” the president declared.
“When you look at the president you would never assume he cares so much about the religious character of this country,” Moskowitz said. “At this dinner the president felt comfortable talking about how important the religious character is. This is something I hadn’t expected, and frankly, I found it to be quite reassuring.”
After his speech, the president sat down to join the meal. At one point Mulvaney looked around and remarked: “It’s the National Day of Prayer Dinner, but we forgot to say grace before eating.” So he went over to the VP, who saw to it that grace would be recited.
In middle of desert, First Lady Melania stood up, and the president followed her cue; together they left the State Dining Room, amid a round of applause. Tomorrow, another big day loomed.