Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009
It wasn’t the first Ramadan dinner at the White House, but it was the first with an Israeli guest. And what a guest: Michael Oren, the spanking new Israeli ambassador.
Also in attendance: Nathan Diament, public policy director for the Orthodox Union, and Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism – both members of President Obama’s Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Presumably the food was halal, which does not qualify as kosher; Diament, who is Orthodox, reports he ate the raw salad – “apparently grown in the White House garden.”
What does it mean? Depends on who you ask.
David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), wrote in the Huffington Post that the dinner was a “powerful gesture” that “breathes new life into the words Obama gave voice to in Cairo.” About Oren, Harris had this to say: “It actually makes great sense for Israel’s representative to have a seat around the Ramadan dinner table. Israel is home to well over a million Muslims, and it’s a country – unlike those around it – that provides real religious freedom.”
Over at the Politico, readers responding to Ben Smith’s item on the dinner saw the usual assortment of dark conspiracies, with several suggesting that the dinner somehow proved Obama is a not-so-secret Muslim – ignoring the fact that President George W. Bush held eight White House dinners for Ramadan.
Maybe Bush, too, was a secret Muslim?