Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Teacher Rabbi Burt Visotzky Does Dinner with President Barack Obama

It's not everyday that you know someone who gets to have a meal with the President of the United States. Last week, one of my favorite teachers (if I don't say "one of" I'm bound to offend) had just that honor.

Rabbi Burt Visotzky, whose Midrash courses at the Jewish Theological Seminary I thoroughly enjoyed, was invited to the White House for the annual Iftar dinner and had the privilege of sitting at the President's table.

This year the Jewish month of Av coincides with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a time when pious Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset to show their devotion to Allah. After dark, they break their daylong fast with an evening meal known as the Iftar. President Thomas Jefferson hosted the first Iftar dinner at the White House and it became an annual tradition under President Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and is now hosted by President Barack Obama.

This year’s White House Iftar meal was held on August 10 with approximately 120 guests, including two Jewish people in addition to Rabbi Visotzky. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren (pictured with me at right) and Bahraini Ambassador Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo.

According to a JTS press release, Rabbi Visotzky sat at President Obama’s table and brought the president up-to-date on JTS’s most recent and noted Jewish-Muslim dialogue programs, along with JTS’s other forms of Jewish-Muslim engagement, including 2010’s two-day workshop entitled “Judaism and Islam in America” and this past May’s “Our Better Angels,” a three-part program that anticipated the 10th anniversary of 9/11 through Jewish, Christian, and Muslim discussions on the themes of tragedy, mourning, and healing.

While it's usually teachers who are proud of their students, I must say that I feel much pride for my teacher Rabbi Burt Visotzky's devotion to Jewish-Muslim dialogue and his great honor last week.


Anonymous said...

Did they supply a kosher meal for the Rabbi?
Or did he eat "veggie out"?

Anonymous said...

Is that seriously the first question that comes to your mind?

Rabbi Jason Miller said...

Anonymous #1: Since you're so concerned about what Rabbi Visotzky ATE at the White House, I hope you'll rest assured knowing that the White House provides Kosher meals to those who need it. I'm guessing that the White House might have some connections so procuring some kosher meals for those who need it wouldn't be a problem.

The idea of worrying so much about what other Jews eat

A) can lead to sinat chinam (better you should worry about what you eat, whether you donate enough to tzedakah, and whether you are kind to others.

B) can be chalked up to your own insecurities about matters of daily observance.

Oh, and by the way, Rabbi Visotzky doesn't waste one second wondering about your hashkafa, kashrut standards or any other areas of your life. SO... you might want to ask yourself why you needed to leave that comment. If you can be honest with yourself, that would be enough for me.