One thing about Washington: here, people regard speeches as entertainment. This morning, I put up with all the associated nonsense in terms of lines and security to attend a celebration of something called Jewish American Heritage Week at my synagogue, Adas Israel. Featured speaker and cause of all the show of security: President Obama.
I'm not very high on this sort of stuff--identity politics strikes me as creating more problems than it solves. But don't get me wrong: Obama always delivers when it comes to a speech. The congregation has become more open-minded on the subject of Israel, so he was cheered for his statements in support thereof, whereas a few years ago, there might have been a sullen silence. He mentioned his early excitement by Israel--Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir, kibbutzes--and reiterated that America would always have Israel's back and that he wouldn't agree to a bad deal with Iran.
Probably the fun part was the opening, where he spoke of his initiation into "the tribe" by his Jewish staffers, including two chiefs of staff. He said he wouldn't mention the Yiddishisms he'd learned from Rahm Emanuel, including synonyms for shalom. For me, he had a reasonable burden to meet, since it took about an hour on line to get in and then an hour and a half waiting for him with some singing by a University of Maryland Jewish a capella group and then our cantor, who has a fine soprano, leading The Star-Spangled Banner and Hatikvah.
He emphasized that policy disagreements with the government of Israel were to be expected and I suppose what pleased me most was that he never even mentioned Bibi. The appearance was the subject of a lengthy prewrite story in this morning's Washington Post, which stressed that he was out to repair what they regarded as strained relations with Jews. Judging from the strong positive response he received--many rounds of applause--I think that the Jewish community is far from being in agreement with the right wing that AIPAC now stands for.