How hard is it to greet a group of rabbis when trying to sell health-care reform as a religious obligation? For one thing, you could just say, “Hello,” but that may not have the shmooze value of speaking Hebrew or Yiddish. Fortunately, the greeting “Shalom” pretty much works in every situation, but apparently Barack Obama decided to be a foigel — and wound up with egg on his punim:
The purpose of the call was for President Obama to enlist the rabbis to support his health-care reform efforts: “I am going to need your help in accomplishing necessary reform.” The reference to the “who shall live and who shall die” prayer was strange in two respects. First, as Paul Bedard noted, the Jewish New Year won’t take place until September 18th. In fact, today marks the beginning of the month of Elul, the last month before the New Year begins. And yet the president said “shanah tovah [happy new year] to all of you.” This is kind of like wishing people “Merry Christmas” on Thanksgiving.
Second, and more surprisingly, is this really the context in which he wishes to discuss health reform — a powerful and unseen being making determinations of life and death? One would think that he would want to avoid anything that could raise the specter of rationing, death panels, or the like.
Nor was that the only tone-deaf aspect of the call, as Washington Jewish Week reported:
Second, the hold music on the line, through no apparent fault of the White House or the Religious Action Center, which sponsored the call, was “Deutschland Über Alles.” A number of rabbis apparently expressed discomfort with this choice of music as well.
Next time, stick with Pachelbel’s Canon in D and a simple shalom, schmuck.
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