Menu JTA Search

Isn’t Miss Manners Jewish?

I remember reading somewhere that Judith Martin was Jewish; her Wikipedia entry suggests it (nee Perlman.)

It makes sense – the whole advice column thing thing devolves from turn-of-the-last-century columns in the Forward and other papers; newcomers wanted to know the American way of doing things.

Maybe we learned too well. I’m with the Orthodox Union on the "Chrismukkah" card flap. It’s astonishingly bad manners, of a piece with an unfortunate "kick a man when he’s down" political tradition in this country (See, ironically enough, the post 2000 treatement of Al Gore.)

Whether you believe President Bush will be vindicated or that his policies were disastrous for Israel – and that’s above my pay grade – his embrace of Jewish Americans has been warm and unambiguous. (Yes, his White House, in its first term at least, snubbed those groups that were not 100 percent on board with its message – but that policy, however butt-headed, was ecumenical.)

I attended a few of the White House Hannukiyah lightings, and up close, one could appreciate how much of a kick Bush got out of the whole "house of the American people" ethos. One night, a Jewish kids’ choir could be singing the Maoz Tsur, another night Muslim Americans might be delivering Eid greetings – he genuinely seemed to enjoy the idea that the prayers could change from event to event, and still be essentially American.

There are two types of president when it comes to Jewish American sensibilities: those who advance the notion that Jews are an inseparable part of the fabric, and those who – in ways that are at times subtle, at times crude – try to tease Jews out of the cloth. In the latter category, you’ll find Nixon, Carter, even Bush’s father. But with a senior official at State monitoring anti-Semitism, with a Jewish history month in place, Bush II has earned his place alongside Lincoln, Johnson, and Clinton in the former.

(I’m not sure, by the way, what O.U. means about Bush being the first to put it on the "official White House calendar" – were the earlier parties informal? And I’m fairly sure the Clinton Hannukah events were kosher – I think the distinction might be that Laura Bush was the first to have the White House kitchen kashered; the previous parties may have had outside catering.)

NEXT STORY