Yes I visited the White House this week. It was a jammed packed quick trip. It was a celebration of Jewish American Heritage month. I left the Board of Rabbis installation of the new President Rabbi Judith HaLevy of Malibu Jewish Center and hopped a red eye to Dulles! I arrived in the pouring rain, caught a shuttle to the hotel and quickly ate and changed into proper White House attire? They said business casual. I wore a pant suits. (My mother in my head said, “What no dress to the White House?” I said back to her in my head “If it is good enough for Hillary then it is good enough for me. Besides it is raining!”)
The car came to take me to town. After more than an hour in traffic I made it just in time to attend the special morning briefing. It was in the Eisenhower Office Building (yes across from the Corcran) and a small group of approximately 50 people heard from Administration experts on a variety of issues. We heard from incoming Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro on the Middle East. We hear from Brian Dees who is on the President’s Budget team and several others. This was not just talking at us but there was lots of time for questions. I learned a lot about Health Care Reform, the Debt Ceiling issue and of course Israel and U.S. cooperation and prospects for peace. The briefing was just over 90 minutes.
Then after grabbing lunch it was back to the White House for the main event. This was a larger gathering of about 220 Jewish leaders from all over the U.S. I was in the company of Rabbi Eric Yoffie outgoing president of the URJ and Rabbi Rick Jacobs incoming President of the URJ, Rabbi Dr. Gary Zola head of the American Jewish Archives, Rabbi Elka Abrahamson, president of the Wexner Heritage Foundation among others. Congressman Steve Cohen from my home town of Memphis was there as was Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. There were lots of lay leaders there.
The reception began in the East Room with a live performance of the Maccabeats, the Yeshivah University singing sensation. They were a YouTube favorite at Chanukah this year.
Then the President came and spoke for approximately 15 minutes and then worked the rope line shaking hands. Following was a beautiful reception with KOSHER salads, roast beef, and desserts, wine and drinks. All the while the Marine Corp string quartet plus piano played in the background. We mingled, talked and visited with friends, helped one another take pictures beneath the oil painting of recent presidents -everyone of them from Truman to Bush 42.
Representing the Los Angeles Jewish was also Rabbi Adam Kligfield of Temple Beth Am, and Sally Weber and Michelle Wolf of Jewish Family Services. I was lucky enough to take my sister with me.
Caught a ride back to my hotel in Virginia, checked out and made the 9:50 pm United flight to LAX! Whew a whirlwind trip but worth it! An honor! And proud to be able to bring my sister to such a great gathering.
In the photo below is Sally Webber, Michelle Wolfe, Malcolm Katz (Sally’s husband and the Executive Director of Valley Beth Shalom Synagogue in Encino)