From As Far Away As Hot Springs, Ark. Jews Come to Celebrate Inauguration
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From As Far Away As Hot Springs, Ark. Jews Come to Celebrate Inauguration

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Among the thousands who came to Washington this week to celebrate the inauguration of Bill Clinton as president were Rabbi Matthew Friedman and about 15 others from the 100-strong Jewish community of Hot Springs, Ark.

Rabbi Friedman, who leads Congregation House of Israel in Hot Springs, where Clinton spent his boyhood, said his flock is proud and happy.

At least, “the ones, who are here are happy,” he amended, Anyone who is not happy, he supposed, was back in Arkansas.

Like the rabbi, Jews from all over the country gathered in Washington in a celebratory mood. After all, over 80 percent of Jewish voters had supported the Clinton-Gore ticket.

At a breakfast reception Tuesday sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the atmosphere was joyous and the food lavish.

Members of Congress joined with representatives of the Jewish community and others in eating lox and bagels, drinking orange juice, and basking in the Democratic victory.

Dr. Ruth Westheimer and actor Richard Dreyfuss were among the crowd that turned out for the reception, held in a capacious hotel room just up the street from the Capitol.

James Carville, Clinton’s Cajun campaign strategist, received a large round of applause from the assembled hundreds, as he gleefully pumped one fist in the air.

Carville was one of the featured speakers, along with newly appointed Democratic National Committee Chairman David Wilhelm, who told the crowd of his experiences on a trip to Israel.

On the trip, Wilhelm said, he found that the Israelis were “fighting for something larger” than themselves, and this attitude, he felt at the time, was missing in America. Maybe, he said, it had been around at the time of the Revolution.

The Clinton election, he said, recaptured a little of that feeling.

‘HANDS-ON ATTENTION’ URGED

Across town from the AIPAC affair, Americans for Peace Now held its own reception Tuesday, at a private home in Washington’s Dupont Circle neighborhood. The reception, attended by about 100 people, honored Peter Edelman and Sara Ehrman, Peace Now members who have been very active with the Clinton campaign.

Actor Dreyfuss showed up there too, along with various Peace Now members including Cochair Letty Cottin Pogrebin, who discussed a recent trip to Israel and the administered territories she made with a group of American Jewish and Palestinian women.

According to many in the Jewish community, Peace Now has taken on new importance with its connections to the Clinton inner circle.

Another Jewish group feeling triumphant this week was the National Jewish Democratic Council, which formed two years ago to build Jewish support for the Democratic Party.

The NJDC hosted a fund-raiser Monday morning for newly elected Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif). Over 100 people crowded into a room near Dupont Circle to hear Feinstein, NJDC Vice Chair Stuart Eizenstat and others.

In strongly pro-Israel remarks, Feinstein discussed the importance of the peace process and the need to curb arms sales to the Middle East.

“Without hands-on attention from the president and the secretary of state,” Feinstein warned, “the peace process will disintegrate.”

Jewish leaders also were in evidence at a luncheon this week for ethnic groups co-sponsored by the public liaison office of the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Dubbed the American Reunion Luncheon, the event featured brief remarks from luminaries representing the full constellation of American ethnic groups.

Hyman Bookbinder, the former longtime Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee who helped found the NJDC, was the Jewish speaker at the event.

OTHER ETHIC GROUPS SEEK ADVICE

Bookbinder, like many at the event, which took place on Martin Luther King Day, referred to the late civil rights leader and his work for justice.

“For more than half a century,” Bookbinder said, “Jewish Americans have given the preponderance of their support to the Democratic Party, because, despite differences now and then, they have been persuaded that the dream King dreamed for all of us could best be achieved by Democratic leadership.”

The hundreds of people in attendance, who feasted on chicken, rice and sherbet, then had a chance to ask questions.

An Indian American woman asked Bookbinder how Asian Indians as a group could be more involved in the American “mainstream.” Bookbinder referred the woman to Jason Isaacson, director of government and international relations for the AJCommittee.

After the event ended, Isaacson said, he was surrounded by people of varying ethnicities, from Indian to Indochinese, all interested in discussing how their respective ethnic groups could be more involved.

Isaacson, like many in Washington this week, was pleased.

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