Ambassador Power as Queen Esther: An Unlikely Advocate for the Jewish People

Power called out apathy toward anti-Semitism before such condemnation was mainstream.

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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, March 2, 2015.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, March 2, 2015.Credit: Reuters
Dan Dorsch
Rabbi Dan Dorsch

Much ink has already been spilled analyzing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent speeches to AIPAC and Congress. Yet, much less attention has been paid to another important address made at the AIPAC policy conference this week by United States Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, who proved herself in her present capacity to be a friend of both the State of Israel and the Jewish people.

At the conclusion of the Book of Esther that we read this past week, we learn that without the strength of just one emissary, the Jewish people surely would have been annihilated. Until hearing Power's address, I am not sure that I would have considered her our choice envoy. Much of the criticism regarding her original nomination may have been justified given her less than thoughtful comments about Israel before she was appointed as United Nations ambassador.

However, Power’s speech made it clear to me that like Queen Esther, she has been thrust into a role where she has consistently stood up for Israel and the Jewish people. She has defended Israel against its detractors on the Human Rights Council, and successfully led the charge against the Palestinians' unilateral declaration of statehood at the Security Council. She has fought against the bias that prevents Israel's full participation in the UN system. And during her speech, she rose above the partisan fray when she reassured the pro-Israel community that the relationship between America and Israel rises above politics.

Power has also been a consistent advocate for Jewish communities around the world by calling out apathy toward anti-Semitism in Europe. These days, after the attacks on a kosher supermarket in Paris and a synagogue in Copenhagen, it has become commonplace for even hesitant European leaders to speak out against anti-Semitism in their own countries. Yet when participating at a Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe in November of 2014 Power openly criticized the conference’s European attendees for not taking the issue seriously: “As anti-Semitism is rising in Europe, a third fewer countries are participating in the 2014 conference than took part in the 2004 conference, and only one in three of the countries that sent a foreign minister or other cabinet level official in 2004 has sent one at that level to this conference.” 

As we celebrate Purim, we remember the uncertainty with which Mordechai first came to Esther and told her of her new sacred role and responsibility as advocate for the Jews of Persia. Perhaps Esther was not the most obvious choice for the job, but Mordechai reminded her that it was for “such a moment that she came to royalty.”

Ambassador Power, too, may not have been the Jewish people’s most obvious choice. However, I think it is safe to say that she has risen up to the challenge since assuming the ambassadorial position. Among her many other priorities at the United Nations, it was perhaps for “such a moment that she came to royalty.” 

Rabbi Dan Dorsch is the Assistant Rabbi at Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston, N.J.

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