Gary Epstein
And now for something completely different . . .

A Jewish First Gentleman

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She is a heartbeat–a frail heartbeat–away from the Presidency. And what a momentous–if sad–event that would be, bringing, as it would, a Jewish First Gentleman to the White House. The heart flutters, the stomach churns:  President Kamala, First Gentleman Doug. We would miss Joe and his playful, hair-smelling antics and madcap pratfalls, not to mention his illustrious family, but . . . a Jewish First Gentleman! Just imagine.

Actually, it’s much easier to imagine that than contemplating a Harris Presidency, which is almost too much for a sensitive mind to accommodate: the first Black, Indian, Jamaican, woman to hold the office, chosen solely on the basis of her gender and color, barely articulate, whose next original thought will be her first.  A woman devoid of qualifications, charm, intellect, or electoral appeal, having failed to persuade even 1% of primary voters to support her.  Really sort of terrifying.  

But we can easily visualize Doug Emhoff’s tenure as First Spouse, for we have been watching him train for it.  And he is perfect.  He is dignified and well-spoken, a trained entertainment attorney with impeccable credentials, and he has described himself as “proud to represent Jewish families across the nation.”  And . . . he has stated his principled opposition to anti-Semitism.

There is only one problem.  One hates to cavil, but his dignified and well-spoken head appears to be unsullied by a single shred of knowledge about his Jewish heritage and the people he so proudly represents.  On the one hand, the fact that these two airheads found one another speaks well of Divine Providence.  On the other hand, the potential for embarrassment looms large.  

Recently, in partial fulfillment of his role as Court Jew, he wrote a message about Chanukah and had this to say [I am not making this up]: “The story of Chanukah and the story of the Jewish people has always been one of hope and resilience.  In the Chanukah story, the Jewish people were forced into hiding.  No one thought they would survive or that the few drops of oil they had would last.  But they survived, and the oil kept burning. During those eight days in hiding, they recited their prayers and continued their traditions.  That’s why Chanukah means dedication.  It was during those dark nights that the Maccabees dedicated themselves to maintaining hope and faith in the oil, each other and their Judaism.  In these dark times, I think of that story.”

Oh, my!  “Bless his heart!” as my Southern acquaintances say when confronted with their friends’ dim progeny.  Really? Their hope and faith in the oil during the eight dark nights?  So that’s why Chanukah means dedication? Nothing about the military victory?  The restoration of the Holy Temple?  The miracle of the menorah after  the glorious victory (no hiding)?  The message of freedom from religious persecution?  Just their “faith in the oil” and continuing the traditions in hiding?

Could it be that Doug might not be the spokesman for whom we’ve been waiting since 1776 (or maybe 1619, if you believe the lying New York Times)?

Or look at the bright side.  Perhaps we are better off with a clean slate.  President Biden, who claims to have been raised in a synagogue (actually one of his more credible lies), appears to have pulled the rug out from beneath the Israeli effort to eradicate Hamas and is slow-walking the delivery of promised M-16s.  Maybe we could do worse than an ignorant Jewish First Gentleman explaining our holidays to the masses, even if his wife appears to be tilting to the other side.

And it would be so amusing.  His Chanukah effort provides the impetus for a light-hearted fantasy of his future holiday messages should he wind up in the White House (and, as an advance apology, I hereby solemnly offer my assistance in crafting more appropriate messages should he seek it). 

Just imagine:  

Purim according to Doug:  The story of Purim occurred in Persia, which is now Iran.  The Jews hid there for a few years, searching for the oil.  In gratitude for their hospitality and good will to the Jews, Presidents Obama and Biden sent Iran billions of dollars that they used to promote peace in the Middle East.  Kamala plans to do the same, without making a big megilla about it.  Queen Esther showed hope and resilience and dedication, which has personified the Jewish people as well as other faiths throughout dark times.  And she wore costumes.  That’s why Purim means whatever Purim means.  And it always will.

Passover according to Doug:  The Jews were slaves in Egypt.  They left in the Spring.  Kamala and I like to celebrate with brightly colored eggs that we dip in salt water, to remember the oil.  And the darkness. Where the Jews were hiding before Spring. The youngest one in attendance asks the four questions and it is so amusing.  Kamala laughs and laughs and laughs and laughs and laughs and laughs and laughs and laughs.  Then she has four to seven cups of wine and laughs some more.  Passover is such fun.  We never forget that we were slaves.  And we never stop thinking about reparations. We always end with the song “l’shana haba’a b’Palestine” because if only the Palestinians had existed then, they would have been there when the Jews arrived in Israel 3,000 years ago.  But they didn’t.  And they weren’t.

Kwanzaa according to Doug: Kwanzaa is a holiday that I never celebrated before I married Kamala.  I don’t really know much about it, except that it celebrates cultural heritage and traditional values.  Sort of like Chanukah.  I think there may be some hiding and oil, but I don’t have a firm grasp on the subject.  We light candles.  Just like Chanukah.  So I guess Kwanzaa and Chanukah are pretty much the same. Happy Kwanzukah!

Yom Ha’atzmaut according to Doug:  Kamala says that we don’t celebrate that one.  Because of the settlers, or extremists, or something. I always feel a little stirring in my heart when I hear Hatikvah, but don’t tell Kamala.   Have you ever seen her angry?  Ask her staff.

Shavuot according to Doug:  This holiday occurs seven weeks after Passover.  It commemorates the time when the Jews were hiding at Mt. Sinai, after searching for oil in the darkness of the desert for forty years. During all that time, they kept their faith in the oil, paying no attention to the MAGA people chanting, “Drill, Baby, Drill.”  They received the Torah, in which God commands that there be no Islamophobia, and no racism, and no misgendering.  The Bible is the source of the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, which prohibits assault weapons and encourages cash-free bail.  I often think about the Bible during dark times.  Then I turn on the light.  Amazing!

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur according to Doug:  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  I really know this one.  This is the one where I actually once attended services and skipped breakfast.  Skipping breakfast is no small sacrifice for Jews in California, because it is acknowledged to be the most important meal of the day.  But it helps you focus on your spirituality and your hope and faith in the oil. The Rabbi speaks, the shofar sounds, and we all close our eyes, remember the dear departed and focus on the oil and defunding the police.  These are traditionally Days of Judgment, but Kamala and I think that judgment has sometimes become a bit racist and reactionary.  These High Holy Days remind us of something profoundly Jewish.

Maybe Joe can hold on for a few more years.  And Doug, in the unlikely event that you ever read this, please forgive me in the true Chanukah spirit.

About the Author
Gary Epstein is a retired teacher and lawyer residing in Modi'in, Israel. He was formerly the Head of the Global Corporate and Securities Department of Greenberg Traurig, a global law firm with an office in Tel Aviv, which he founded and of which he was the first Managing Partner. He and his wife Ahuva are blessed with18 grandchildren, ka"h, all of whom he believes are well above average. He currently does nothing. He believes he does it well.