Jane Harman, the ‘Yiddishe Great-Grandmama’ and intel champion


These are trying times for the intelligence community and its champions, but Jane Harman, the former Californian Democrat in Congress known for her advocacy on behalf of the community, found refuge at a Lubavitch event.

Harman, who was for years the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and now head the Wilson International Center for Scholars, was chief honoree Wednesday night at the American Friends of Lubavitch annual fundraiser.

Introducing her, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who directs the group, cited a little Talmudic learning to underscore the merits of keeping mum: Many in Washington “do a little and say a lot, which is the opposite of the Talmudic instruction,” he said. Harman, he said, noting her service on the committee, was the opposite.

Shemtov also noted that she once one-upped another congresswoman — he wouldn’t say whom — whom he had described at an event as the “Yiddishe mama” of Congress. Harman had taken the mic, he recalled, and said, “If she’s the Yiddishe Mama, I’m the Yiddishe Grandmama.”

Harman, accepting the award of two Shabbat candlesticks, one-upped Shemtov once again; She was now to be referred to as the “Yiddishe Great-Grandmama.”

She noted that her marriage to the late Sydney Harman, the stereo pioneer who died two years ago at 92 and who was 27 years her senior, was a blended one, and that his grandchildren from his first marriage were bearing children of their own. Harman could barely contain her tears each time she mentioned her late husband’s name.

Also honored was Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who was introduced by his Democratic counterpart on the committee, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). Royce said he and Engel “probably agreed on everything” on foreign policy, an assessment, if accurate, that would intrigue the Obama administration.

Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, also was honored.

Recommended from JTA