Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has brought a whole new meaning to the notion of kindling the Hanukkah flames.
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When Walker, who is a top-tier contender for the GOP presidential nomination, was Milwaukee county executive, he sent a letter to one of his Jewish constituents offering support for setting up a Chabad Hanukkah menorah at the local courthouse. Walker concluded by wishing the constituent “Molotov.”
(According to the Madison Capital Times, which first reported the letter’s existence, it was uncovered by the liberal group One Wisconsin Now while sorting through a massive document dump from one of two separate criminal investigations into campaign finance shenanigans by Walker and his circle.)
Now, although Molotov cocktails are popular fire starters among certain groups, they tend not to be associated with Hanukkah candles, nor do they fit with the governor’s law-and-order image. The natural assumption here would be that Walker’s intention was to wish the letter’s recipient, Milwaukee attorney Franklyn Gimbel, a fry “mazel tov,” and that the invocation of Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov was simply a hilarious mistake. Or auto-correct disaster.
But we shouldn’t rush to judgment. It is entirely possible, or at least highly entertaining to pretend, that the sign-off of “Molotov” has some deeper meaning.
Consider: Molotov was married to a Jewish wife, Polina Zhemchuzhina. Was Walker trying to quietly signal that he likewise harbors a deep and personal connection to the Jewish people?
Or: Molotov famously put his name to the reviled Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that temporarily allied the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany. Was Walker subtly warning Gimbel to be careful of foolish alliances — perhaps with Milwaukee’s Democratic mayor, who would face off against Walker for the governorship in 2010?
Or maybe: Walker was reminding Gimbel that it was the October Revolution, led by Bolsheviks like Molotov, that had driven the Chabad Lubavitch leadership to flee their Russian home of Lyubavitsch, starting them on the long journey that eventually brought some of their representatives to the friendly confines of Milwaukee County. What better way to tutor Gimbel on the importance of cultivating strong allies?
It may even be that Walker was offering Gimbel a Midrashic illustration of the ways in which the seemingly small flames of the Hanukkah candles can ignite and spread like a Molotov cocktail, spreading their illuminating wisdom with shocking intensity.
We just don’t know. But this letter has sparked our interest, and we at The Telegraph intend to investigate. We have burning questions for you, Governor Walker, so quit Stalin and give us some answers.