White House staffers joined Rabbi Levi Shemtov Tuesday to celebrate Purim — and even some top non-Jewish members of the administration stopped by to join the party.
Shemtov, Washington director of American Friends of Lubavitch, said more than 15 staffers heard the Megillah reading and munched on hamantaschen at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Purim afternoon — coordinated by the Jewish outreach team of Susan Sher and Danielle Borrin. Joining them to learn about the holiday were Obama senior advisor and assistant to the president Valerie Jarrett and the head of the White House Office of Public Liasion, Tina Tchen. The event was obviously the first Megillah reading for the Obama White House, but Shemtov has organized similar events in previous administrations.
A few hours later, Shemtov moved to Capitol Hill, where about 150 congressional staffers — as well as Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Ct.) and Rep. Jerold Nadler (D-N.Y.) — attended the rabbi’s annual Purim bash. The buzz at the party, he said, was the withdrawal of the Chas Freeman appointment, which had leaked out only a half-hour before the gathering began.
"It seemed like an appropriate Purim gift," said Shemtov.