I waited in vain for my invitation to the White House Hanukkah Party. As the lights on the Hanukkiah glowed on Pennsylvania Avenue, I remained close by my Manhattan mail slot. Sure, I missed out on seeing President Obama. He spoke a tad and greeted guests for 18 minutes. I lost out on shedding a tear as the Hanukkiah was lit by the children of a Navy Commander who is currently deployed to Iraq (Ethan and Esther Moran, along with their mother Alison Buckholtz, lit candles. The kids’ father, Scott, is deployed to Iraq). I did not see the menorah from my heimat near Prague or listen to Kol Sasson, a Jewish a cappella group at the University of Maryland. I was unable to brush shoulders (dressed in my slightly new Hugo Boss suit) with Senators Ben Cardin (MD-Dem), Al Franken (MN-Dem), and Joseph Lieberman (CT-hmm what party is he these days?); Governor Markell (DE); David Axelrod, Tina Tchen, Stuart Levey, William Daroff, Rabbis Saperstein, Weil, Diament, Sharon Kleinbaum, Marvin Hier; and Members of Congress Anthony (call me Tony in Brooklyn) Weiner (NY-Dem) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-Dem). Nor with Alan Solow, Chairperson of the Conference of Presidents of Jewish Organizations who was there. (Does the Chairperson of the Conference of Vice Presidents of Jewish Organizations go the the VP’s holiday party? I wonder if Jerry Silverman of the Jewish Federations brought gifts of Keds to all the kids there? But i digress.)
But do NOT fret, yidden. I had a just as enjoyable Hanukkah in NYC. Last night I attended my first Hanukkah Tango Party of Argentinian and Yiddish music which was held in the back of a midtown Manhattan Chinese restaurant. I was actually one of the youngest participants and was unable to keep up with a 91 year old dancer/singer; and I shared insights on the Coen brothers’ film, “A SERIOUS MAN,” with a tango enthusiast from Minneapolis whose relative played the role of the Hebrew School teacher in the film.
And while attendees at The White House asked George Mitchell about the Middle East and dined on glatt kosher latkes, I skipped the annual UJA Wall Street Division dinner (which hosted 1,100 and raised $18 million) in order to hightail it to JTS for a screening of that 2009 Hanukkah appropriate film, INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, followed by a panel discussion on “Jewish Persecution and the Fantasy of Revenge” with Arnold M. Eisen, JTS Chancellor; Lawrence Bender, the film’s producer; Rabbi Jack Moline of Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria, Virginia, who wrote his Kol Nidre sermon based on the message of the film; and Dr. Amy Kalmanofsky, an assistant professor of Bible at JTS who is a scholar of horror and the Bible and how the Hebrew Bible is designed to terrify its audience. (More on this in a later post…)
Quentin Tarantino, the director of Inglorious Basterds, planned to make a surprise visit to JTS and the screening. He flew in to Manhattan for the event, but felt under the weather after the flight, and was forced to cancel.
So all in all, it has been an exciting Hanukkah here in NYC. President Obama quoted the prophet Zechariah at the party, reciting “not by might and not by power, but by spirit alone.” And I will paraphrase it as well, saying, “not at the White House party, or hob nobbing with Paulson and Greenberg at the UJA Wall Street dinner, but listening to a discussion of Torah at JTS enhanced not just my spirit alone.”
So nu, how has your Hanukkah been?