Our Community’s Rare Convergence Event
screenshot via YouTube/White House
It’s no secret we’re a segmented community, operating in political and organizational silos. For better and for worse, no single individual or group “runs” or “represents” the U.S. Jewish community. One challenge we face: Too often, as a community we’re unable to talk with each other, but rather we talk at one another. We rarely — if ever — attend the same events. And if we’re not in the same room, it’s rather difficult to share a common conversation.
If there’s been one truly diverse annual gathering of the Jewish community in recent years, spanning the communal and religious spectrums, it’s President Obama’s Hanukkah Party. There are those who focus on national security and foreign policy and others who are committed to domestic issues. Groups such as AIPAC, J Street, Bend the Arc, Conference of Presidents, T’ruah, JFNA, Chabad, URJ, Agudath Israel, USCJ, Orthodox Union, IKAR… and so many more, represented by their top leaders and their “plus ones.” We’re talking primarily on the communal side but there has also been a degree of political diversity with several Republican Jews in attendance over the years (here and here). The White House seems to be the only house where all of our people gather.
Our favorite part of the Hanukkah party? The fairly egalitarian queue outside the White House as the Secret Service prepares to open the gates, with some waiting in line for hours. We liken it to our community’s version of a new product launch at the Apple Store. Everyone waits — even Ambassadors and members of Congress — and there are no special lanyards denoting status. So what are influential Jewish leaders waiting in line to do but shmooze with whomever is near them? For us, it’s a highlight to observe the random pairings that would likely never occur, especially with any advanced planning.
The diversity of the White House Hanukkah Party is something to be proud of. Who knows what a Trump Hanukkah event will look like — aside from a gold menorah of course — but let’s hope it continues the tradition of bringing all segments of our community together — supporters and critics alike.