May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.
( President George Washington to the Jews of Newport,R.I.,1790).
This month we have two holidays here in America, President’s Day and Purim. I would like to use the Purim Commandments to recall major actions of some of our Presidents.
What are the commandments of Purim? To hear the Megillah of course, to wear masks, to get so drunk you cannot tell the difference between Haman and Mordechai to give portions to the poor and to blot out the name of Haman.
How could these commandments have anything to do with the office of the President of the United States?
The story of Purim, the Megillah, is about an evil Leader wanting to destroy our people and a brave queen and advisor rescuing us.
President Harry Truman, after the Holocaust sought to recognize Israel in May of 1948. His old friend and advisor Harry Jacobson pleaded with him and the president did so over the demands of his ‘ministers’ in the State Department. President Truman rescued what was left of our people in Europe from annihilation. Fourteen years later, another President, John Kennedy, over the advice of his State department experts sold Israel Hawk defensive missiles to protect the new state. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter told all the American Embassies in Europe to grant emergency Visitor visas to all Iranian Jews who got to their offices, thereby saving most of Persia’s Jews from another ‘Shushan’ Annihilator’, the Ayatollah (C)HOMEIN(I), rhymes with Haman, DOESN’T IT. .
In the arena of so drunk you don’t know the Good guy from the Bad guy goes to Ulysses S. Grant, who as Union General expelled the first Jewish Chaplain in the US Army from the area of the Union Army. However, whether drunk of not, Abraham Lincoln knew the Good guys from the Bad guys and rescinded General Order 11.
As far as giving to the poor, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams all supported Mordechai Emanuel Noah’s proposal for settling poor and needy Jews at Ararat in upstate New York
Which President has done the most to blot out the name of the Hamans who have threatened us? Although I am not in favor of President Johnson’s expansion of the War in Vietnam, I do admire his War on Poverty. His efforts to aid those in need and the passage of civil rights legislation which led to our people’s gain in pride, self-confidence and prestige cannot be overlooked. Before Johnson, Jews did not celebrate Hanukkah the way we do now. I believe the best way to blot out the name of Haman is to loudly call out the names, Mordechai, Esther, Judah Maccabee, Bar Kochba, and the other heroes of our history.
Helping American Jews to overcome anti-Semitism and potential death and harm, though, began 50 years before the Civil Rights movement .I would be remiss if I did not mention Woodrow Wilson and his nomination of Justice Louis Brandeis for the Supreme Court. It is 1916 and Anti-Semitism is running ripe in America. President Wilson’s actions here, are very much in line with his 14 points of dignity and independence for all peoples. His powerful voice helped light the way for our people to become full partners in America.
Which President wore the greatest mask in our history? Richard Nixon, of course. Here was an avowed anti-Semite, listen to his tapes, but when it came time he gave Israel what it needed to preserve itself and our people. He was ‘Tricky Dicky’ and he used every trick in his Presidential book to help us, by masking his feelings. He even left behind the C-130 Hercules transport planes used at Entebbe in 1976. The face of an anti-Semite was covered by the mask of a lover if America. Or was it? Nixon resigned rather than cause violence in the streets. People should take note!
There is one other holiday is February that I truly love. Maybe it is because for one day the world does what we do every day three times, remember to love each other, physically, spiritually and uniquely. I LOVE the V’ahavta prayer!
Let me paraphrase a sentence from President John Kennedy’s inaugural speech, ”Ask not how your country can love you, ask how you can love your country”!
Please, Love our country, love each other and love yourself, UNIQUELLY !
B’Ahavah (With Love) on Purim and on every day,