Joshua Hammerman
Rabbi, award winning journalist, author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch-Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi"

The woman who brought 400 rabbis to their feet: Susan Rice

As a supporter of Israel, I would be thrilled to see Susan Rice become Secretary of State.

This became clear to me long before the recent controversy surrounding her appearances regarding Benghazi on network talk shows.  If people’s fitness for high office were to be determined by the efficacy of their presentations on talk shows, Oprah would have become president long ago.

Last March, during a closed lunch at AIPAC, Rice delivered an extraordinarily moving speech to 400 rabbis and cantors of all denominations.  Read about it here and see a transcript here  (and click for audio and transcript of her subsequent Q and A with the Rabbinical Assembly). Among the many gems she spouted, Rice said of the UN:

“What Israel faces is relentless, it’s obsessive, it’s ugly, it’s bad for the United Nations, it’s bad for peace — and it has got to stop….Not a day goes by — not one — when my colleagues and I do not work hard to defend Israel’s security and legitimacy at the United Nations.”

Rice concluded her presentation by stating, “Human conflict and human suffering can only be overcome by human courage,” a courage she has amply demonstrated.  At that point, everyone rose in applause and we began singing a verse from Psalms that she had quoted (in perfect Hebrew, I must add), “Hinay Mah Tov Uma Na’im, Shevet Achim Gam Yachad,” “How pleasant it is when siblings can dwell together in peace.” For me it was the most life-affirming moment of the entire conference. Many of my colleagues were in tears.

Rice also said that although the UN remains problematic, things are improving.  Did you know that Israel is joining the executive board of UNICEF for the coming year?  For those of us raised on a steady diet of “UNICEF is anti-Israel” narrative, this news is downright miraculous, though the ADL points out that the narrative has long been overstated.

With people like Rice doing the grunt work of diplomacy every day, there can be no doubt that America has Israel’s back.

Those across the aisle (Hello?  Mr. McCain?) who profess to be friends of Israel should take a close look at how she has stood up for the Jewish state in the most tempestuous of diplomatic arenas.  The election is over.  John Bolton is not coming through the door.  They should be encouraging this choice, not condemning it.

Four hundred rabbis who voted with their feet – by standing on them in boisterous tribute – would overwhelmingly agree.

About the Author
Award-winning journalist, father, husband, son, friend, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and rabbi of Temple Beth El in Stamford, CT. Author of Mensch-Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi – Wisdom for Untethered Times and the upcoming book, "Embracing Auschwitz." Rabbi Hammerman was a winner of the Simon Rockower award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism, for his 2008 columns on the Bernard Madoff case, which appeared first on his blog and then were discussed widely in the media. In 2018, he received an award from the Religion News Association, honorable mention, for excellence in commentary, for articles written for the Washington Post, New York Jewish Week, and JTA. Among his many published personal essays are several written for the New York Times Magazine and Washington Post. He has been featured as About.com's Conservative representative in its "Ask the Rabbi" series and as "The Jewish Ethicist," fielding questions on the New York Jewish Week's website. Rabbi Hammerman is an avid fan of the Red Sox, Patriots and all things Boston; he also loves a good, Israeli hummus. He is an active alum of Brown University, often conducting alumni interviews of prospective students. He lives in Stamford with his wife, Dr. Mara Hammerman, a psychologist. They have two grown children, Ethan and Daniel, along with Chloe, Casey and Cassidy, three standard poodles. Contact Rabbi Hammerman: rabbi@tbe.org (203) 322-6901 x 307
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