Notes from the first day of the most Jewish Congress ever: It was an exhausting day of celebration for the party (you know which party), the Jewish activists, the new members. Forty-three Jewish legislators in Congress, but who's counting?
Record First thought: Wow, so many Jews in Congress. A record number: 43. That's huge. No wonder people are so excited about it.
Second thought: Isn't it too much? Just 2 percent of the population and 13 senators out of 100? Two percent of the population and 30 congressmen? Aren't they going to draw the attention of all the anti-Semites, conspiracy theorists, Walt and Mersheimers of the world? Maybe a lower profile would have been preferable?
Third thought: Is worrying the Jewish way of celebrating or what? As they used to say - start worrying, details to follow.
Six Six new Jewish lawmakers, all Democrats, were sworn in today on Capitol Hill. They come from different places and from different backgrounds. Some represent areas heavily populated by Jews, some areas with a negligible number of Jews. Will they thrive? Will they survive? Today they seem mostly happy to be there.
Democrats Did we mention all the new members are Democrats? Twenty-nine out of 30 Jewish members of the House are Democrats, nine out of 13 Jewish senators are Democrats, two are independents caucusing with the Democrats and two are Republicans. Those who attended the National Jewish Democratic Council reception, House majority leader Steny Hoyer included, will not forget this. If you had any doubt, most Jews are also still Democrats (not that anyone had any doubts).
Jewish Nancy Pelosi became the first woman speaker of the House, but that's not the most remarkable thing about her (if you ask NJDC). She is the first speaker to have Jewish grandchildren. That's history.
Women And speaking of women, new congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is the "first Jewish woman from Arizona" to be elected to the House. She is also, well, how should I put it? It's always nice to be reminded again that not all Jewish legislators are older, balding, mustachioed men (did I just make an anti-Semitic remark?).
Caucus Some people think being Jewish is fashionable now, and maybe that's why so many elected them as their representatives. There's a reason to believe that the colorful Giffords ("What is the most interesting or unique thing no one knows about you?: Either that I used to race motorcycles or that I lived in a Mexican Mennonite colony. Not at the same time, of course") can make it even more so. She is engaged to an astronaut (bald, mustachioed) and generally cool. Maybe she ought to join this new sub-caucus of cool Jewish women legislators. Current member: Debbie Wasserman Schultz (who also had a reception this week, attended by many Jewish activists).
Kosher NJDC offered kosher food for their guests, and that's not very surprising. But how about Hillary Clinton making it kosher? Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union, celebrating his new blog, was thankful. It is a "clear mark of sensitivity," he wrote.
I wonder how is this going to work: Diament is the lobbyist for the OU, and now also a blogger. Good lack Nathan, that's a thin line to walk.
Israel Is it good for Israel to have so many Jewish legislators? The Israeli ambassador to Washington, attending the NJDC reception, got a warm introduction. The Jewish legislators are pro-Israel, they said. And the ambassador, Salai Meridor, said that these are people who are committed - pay attention to the order - to America, to the Jewish people and to Israel. That's more than enough.
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