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What the Grandfather Did

Grandparenting is supposed to be the height and joy of life.  I have seen grandparents who dote on their grandchildren and take much pride and joy in their growth, achievements and successes. I have seen grandparents who raise their grandchildren when their own children were incapable. I have seen grandparents who also distance themselves from their grandchildren most often because they themselves were not ready to be old enough grandparent!

But more often than not grandparents love to go out of their way for their grandchildren.  This week, one grandfather did just that. Former President Jimmy Carter offered up an apology to the Jewish community.  For many years President Carter’s relationship to the Jewish community has been frosty if not down right hostile.  His writing about Israel and his 2006 book comparing Israel’s policies to apartheid in his Palestine: Peace not Apartheid set a terrible tone and further eroded the relationship of Jews and Carter. On the book tour for the 2006 book Carter further ate away at remaining shreds of his relationship to the Jewish community by blaming the AIPAC for the inability to change the U.S. policy toward Israel.

Some of Carter’s key friends who worked at the Atlanta-based Carter center split with the former President over his comments and his outrageous allegations and outright lies in his book.

But now President Carter has issued an apology! Why now?  Could it be that his grandson Jason Carter is running for the Georgia Senate in a district with Jewish voters? Although both deny that this is so the senior Carter’s conversion seems to me rather convenient.

In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Carter wrote “As I would have noted at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but which is appropriate at any time of the year, I offer an Al Het for any words or deeds of mine that may have done so.”  Of course the Al Het prayer says for the sin we have sinned against You.

But what will Jimmy Carter do to prove that indeed he has changed? Jewish tradition teaches that one may apologize for ones errors and transgressions but the real test comes when presented with the same situation.  Will Jimmy Carter mend his relationship with the Jewish Community fully?  Will he once again spew his lies about Israel so freely?

And what of the grandson Jason? How will he build a relationship to the Jewish community of Atlanta and the State of Georgia? And how will he distance himself from his grandfather’s past?

Ah yes, what the grandfather did was open up the possibility that the grandson might have a chance at even higher office. For Jimmy Carter launched his gubernatorial race from the Georgia Senate and then his presidential race from the Governor’s mansion.  Is this the path for Jason?

I do not align the child with the parents or grandparents and hold the children responsible for their sins. But Jason Carter will have to prove his own stripes.

In the mean time what the grandfather did speaks volumes about their family and the love the grandfather has for the grandson. Let’s just hope it wasn’t an empty apology and we can all hold President Carter’s feet to the fire.