Celebrating the inauguration Jewishly


"I danced with Barack at the National Synagogue," exclaimed Debra Kirsch late Sunday night.

Actually, it was only a cardboard cutout of the president-elect, but Kirsch was one of a couple hundred people who celebrated Barack Obama’s inauguration at a D.C. shul Sunday night.

The National Jewish Inagural Ball at Ohev Sholom — The National Synagogue was the brainchild of Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, who wanted to give Jews a place to celebrate the inauguration in a Jewish setting.

He noted Sunday night that it was an "inaugural ball according to Jewish law," with kosher food and men and women dancing separately to a klezmer band.

Howard Gutman of Bethesda, Md., an early member of Obama’s finance committee and a trustee of the inauguration, predicted that as the new president gets to know the city, "I can just about guarantee that Barack Obama will come to this shul one day soon" because Herzfeld is such a dynamic presence in the city.

A promised toast from actor Louis Gossett, Jr. didn’t materialize — the Academy Award winner couldn’t make it — but Obama campaign Jewish outreach staffer Dan Shapiro did offer a toast to the "wonderful inspiration" that Herzfeld had for the event — and to the future.

This is a time, said Shapiro, that everyone feels is "full of possibility for our country, for our community, full of possibility for a safe Israel, for a better future than we have had."

"There’s a lot of work to do, and we need everybody’s help to get it done," said Shapiro, who is likely to get a foreign policy position in the Obama administration.

Other toasters included Special Olympics chairman Tim Shriver and "the only Jewish legislator in North Dakota," Eliot Glassheim. He said he gets to recite a prayer in Hebrew once a year at the North Dakota House of Representatives, and "the whole legislature is dumbstruck and they love it."

Former New York Knick John Starks, another promised guest, was a no-show, but spotted in the crowd were Bahrain Ambassador to the United States Houda Nonoo (who is Jewish), former AIPAC staffer and current trial defendant Steve Rosen and "Life & Times of Hank Greenberg" filmmaker Aviva Kempner.

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