ADL Honors Abe Foxman

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough discusses his friendship with Abe Foxman

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough discusses his friendship with Abe Foxman


SCENE LAST NIGHT: Around 400 members and guests of the Anti-Defamation League gathered at the Mayflower Hotel in D.C. to celebrate and honor Abe Foxman’s 50 years at the organization. Speakers included Bob Schieffer of CBS who joined Abe Foxman in recently announcing his own plans to retire later this year. Schieffer paraphrased Shakespeare to note, “we come here to praise Abe Foxman, not to bury him” and joked that “both of us are still on the right side of the grass.” 

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough followed by remarking, “I’m not sure what’s worse, appearing before Schieffer on TV or speaking after him now.” McDonough reiterated that “Abe understands no one should fight hatred in isolation” and told the crowd how Foxman once gave him a three hundred page book that only contained one word: ‘Jew’ – repeated six million times. That book still sits on McDonough’s desk in the West Wing today. McDonough acknowledged that while Abe was always honest and blunt when he disagreed with the White House, he was often the first to replace criticism with credit when it was deserved.” [Twitter]

Leon Wieseltier delivered a powerful speech about how “Abe is a man of principle not of politics” and noted that Foxman is a genius when it comes to controversy because he is a son of Democracy. “Abe has never once ever said anything he doesn’t believe.”

Last but not least, Senator Cory Booker was called up to speak. He began, “Mr. Leon, I am insulted that the ADL would have me come up and speak after you. I’m not saying that because of his brilliant oration, his wisdom and his love of which he spoke of his brother. I am insulted sir, because you have this gift of a beautiful head of hair (laughter). Now it’s obvious to everybody here that my scalp is naked before the world (laughter). 

Booker continued “there are no coincidences at all in this world. The fact that we are having this dinner during this week where the Torah portion of the week (laughter)… This big black goy is about to lay some Torah out on y’all… When I first met Abe, he left the room and I said that guy may look, talk and claim to be a Jew but he is a black man in disguise. The brother has deep soul. I want you to know that if Abe could be so soulful, I’m gonna step up here and try to be rabbinical. It’s no accident that this week’s Torah portion is all about Leviticus, it’s actually a double Torah portion… Abe, I know you know this because there’s only four double Torah portions over the year… I’m saying this for the other people here that need to get to a shul… I will now give a d’var Torah tribute about ‘Kidoshim.’ I will do it like no other d’var Torah you have ever heard in your life. I say this all because I do have an honorary degree from Yeshiva University (laughter). That is true.. Politifacts can check it out if they’d like…” 

“To my friend Abe, two words that I learned years ago and I can’t find a perfect english translation… but I just want you to know from the bottom of my heart that I love you, I respect you, I learn from you, you inspire me. I simply say these two words to you, ‘Yasher Koach.’

–Referred to twice but not mentioned by name: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Booker mentioned his early days with Chabad in Oxford which was led back then by Rabbi Boteach. Earlier, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough praised Abe Foxman for being the first to call out others in the Jewish community who ‘unfairly attacked a member of the Administration.’

–Spotted: Bob Sugarman, Dennis Ross, Elliott Abrams, Jonathan Greenblatt – taking over for Foxman in July, Stacy Burdett, Matt Nosanchuk, Marissa Brogger, Matt Dorf, Todd Gutnick and David Robbins.


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