Jewish Leaders Visit White House, Ignore Pollard Plight
As 9/11 Orphans Light White House Menorah
Hamodia - December 13, 2002
J4JP Note: As Jonathan Pollard begins his 18th year of incarceration, a virtual 'who's who' of Jewish communal leaders and rabbis once again met with the President and completely ignored any mention of Pollard's plight. Hamodia reports that, "
The President allowed ample time for questions and comments from the assembled rabbis and lay leaders." In the 18 years that Jonathan Pollard has been in prison, never once has his name been on the official agenda of any Jewish leader visiting the White House. This visit was no exception. The following article in is typical of the many reports of this meeting that were circulated in the Jewish media, celebrating the good relations between the Jewish leaders and the White House.
It may be an annual event, but the White House Chanukah celebration remains a highlight for communal leaders of the American Jewish Community.
Bush celebrated the Jewish festival of Lights with a series of events Wednesday, including a meeting with Jewish political leaders and rabbis, a candle-lighting with children of Jewish White House staffers and a party for Jewish communal leaders.
Chanukah, the president said, "brings a message of hope" each year.
"Today the spirit of those early patriots lives on - [a reference to the Maccabees] - in the lives of the [people in the] state of Israel and throughout the Jewish community, and among all brave people who fight violence and terror," Bush said in brief remarks. "We pray that this season of light will also be a season of peace for the Jewish people."
After a chamber choir of school-children sang the prayers, Bush gave the candle-lighting honors to 12-year-old Daniella and 15-year-old Alexandra, daughters of New York stock broker Victor Wald, who died in last year's terrorist attacks.
The president's only task was to hand the "helper" candles from the large, ornate brass menorah, loaned from the 207-year-old Rodeph Shalom Congregation in Philadelphia, to the girls. He then stood back - hands clasped in front of him - as they lit the menorah.
Bush mouthed "thank you" to both as the choir performed a closing song.
Later, as Bush exited the White House's Bookseller's Lobby for a Chanukah reception with his guests, which included representatives from major Jewish organizations, he acknowledged the girls again. First Lady Laura Bush followed with a warm hug.
But Bush didn't depart before shaking he hands of every one of the two dozen black, white and red-clad choir members from the Ramaz Orthodox Day School in New York.
"You have beautiful voices," Bush proclaimed. "They deserve all A's." he remarked to the audience.
Those at the meeting with Bush - including Rabbis and executives of Agudath Israel, Chabad, The Orthodox Union and The Rabbinical Council of America as well as other Jewish religious and communal representatives, said he spoke strongly of his determination to end the threat of terrorism against the United States and Israel, and his commitment to ensure that Iraq doesn't threaten international peace.
Bush talked at length about religious persecution around the world and the need for religious tolerance and freedom, participants said. He also expressed his appreciation for the support and prayers he has received from the American Jewish community.
The afternoon meeting lasted approximately 45 minutes and was conducted in the intimate setting of the historic Roosevelt Room. The President allowed ample time for questions and comments from the assembled rabbis and lay leaders.
"It was an honor to participate in this dialogue with President Bush." Said Rabbi Bloom, executive vice president of Agudath Israel. "His clear vision, his firm resolve, his strong leadership, his heartfelt faith - all of these qualities, and more, shone through the entire meeting," he said.
"It was an opportunity for us to express our gratitude for his support of Israel and his understanding of Israel and Jewishness and Judaism," declared Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union.
The president "came across as extremely sincere, extremely knowledgeable about the Jewish community and its interests," Weinreb said.
The discussion did not delve into details of domestic or Mideast policy, and participants said Bush did not face any tough questions.
That evening, approximately 200 Jewish communal representatives joined President and Mrs. Bush for a Chanukah gathering in the White House.
Mr. Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president for government and public affairs, noted the strong presence of Orthodox groups at the gathering, and the steps the White House took to accommodate their needs.
However, some Jewish communal leaders also met Wednesday with Bush administration officials, including the deputy secretary of state, Richard Annitage, and Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Chaney.
The message from those meetings, attendees said, was that the United States will not deviate from Bush's June 24 speech, in which he called for new Palestinian leadership.
Many in the Jewish community had been worried that Bush's June vision was being compromised as the United States and its diplomatic partners prepare a "road map" toward Middle East peace that does not explicitly call for the removal of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.
It also places pressure on Israel to end settlement development and withdraw its army to positions held before the Palestinian intifada began in Sept. 2000. Critics contend that Israel should withdraw only after Palestinian violence has ceased.
(AP and UPA contributed to this story.)