WASHINGTON (JTA) – David Axelrod said he came to the Jewish Community Inaugural Reception "to do a little kvelling."
The senior adviser to Barack Obama told the 800 people in the crowd on Monday evening that he felt an "enormous sense of pride and satisfaction and gratitude" when he watched the exit polls on Election Night and saw 78 percent of American Jews voted for Obama. Axelrod also reached back into his own family story to illustrate the "promise" of Obama’s election.
Recalling how his father and grandparents fled Bessarabia after their home was blown up in the pogroms, he said they "weren’t just looking for a place of safety, they were looking for a place of promise and opportunity."
"They were drawn to America — America was that beacon," he said. And Tuesday "would have been a great affirmation of that" idea, Axelrod added. "Not just that we elected Barack Obama, but that their son will be 20 feet from the Oval Office, and have a chief of staff named Rahm Emaunel," he said to cheers.
Axelrod spoke at the official Jewish community inaugural event, an hors d’oeuvres and drinks reception at the Capital Hilton in downtown D.C.
Sponsored by nine organizations — the National Jewish Democratic Council, the United Jewish Communities, the American Jewish Committee, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, AIPAC, NCSJ and the Jewish federations of New York, Chicago and Washington — the reception was not an official inaugural event, but organizers said that prominent Obama supporters encouraged Jewish communal leaders to — like other ethnic groups — privately sponsor such a gathering.
During the event Elie Wiesel praised Obama’s "absolute passion for human decency," while calling the new president "a friend to the Jewish people."