Emanuel, born to an Israeli doctor who married a local woman after he moved to Chicago in the mid-1950s, speaks Hebrew and fondly recalls summering each year in Israel as a child – including just after the 1967 Six-Day War. He attends Anshe Sholom, a Modern Orthodox synagogoue in Chicago, and sends his children to Jewish day school.
His rabbi, Asher Lopatin, recalls Emanuel approaching him just before Rosh Hashanah this year, telling him that an effort to put together a bailout package for the hard-hit stock market before the holiday had failed and asking whether it was permissible to take conference calls on the holiday in order to salvage the bill.
"I asked, ‘Is it as serious as people say it is?’ " the rabbi recalled. "He said, ‘Without this bill there could be a meltdown of the financial system.’ "
Lopatin considered the effect such a failure would have on children and the poor.
"I felt it was a case of ‘pikuach nefesh,’ " the commandment that places the saving of life above all other commandments, Lopatin said, and gave Emanuel the OK.
The somberness of the request couldn’t quell Emanuel’s acerbic wit. Lopatin recalled Emanuel’s teasing, wondering whether the status of the rabbi’s 401(k) investments wasn’t also behind the hechsher.
When Barack Obama appointed Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff last week, a bunch of old stories went back into circulation, clues, perhaps, to how he’ll run the White House: Emanuel wrapping up a dead fish to send to a pollster who’d made him angry; Emanuel stabbing a table with a knife while shouting the names of people who’d betrayed Bill Clinton; Emanuel saying “Don’t fuck it up” to Tony Blair. These are memorable moments, but Rabbi Asher Lopatin, Emanuel’s rabbi at the Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel congregation, in Chicago, pointed out that they don’t capture the whole man. “I don’t know him in a political way,” Lopatin said, “but I wish all our congregants were as loyal to the synagogue and as engaged as he is.” Lopatin said he tries not to get involved with politics, since this can lead to trouble (see Wright, Jeremiah; “Sometimes we spiritual leaders say things we don’t mean,” Lopatin said), but he’d taken the liberty of leaving “a couple messages” on his congregant’s voice mail. “I didn’t push him one way or the other,” he said. “I just wanted to congratulate him and tell him it’s a good opportunity.”
Emanuel, Lopatin emphasized, is “a genius at balancing things.” A few weeks ago, Emanuel consulted Lopatin about working on the financial-bailout package during Rosh Hashanah. The rabbi gave his approval, citing the principle of pikkuah nefesh—“To save a life, you can violate almost any commandment,” he said. “There’s no doubt that somewhere in the world there would be a serious risk to lives and personal survival if the financial system melted down,” he reasoned. So Emanuel tiptoed out of the service to take a conference call. But the rest of the time he was in synagogue. “This year, I’d asked Rahm to open the ark,” the rabbi said. “We had to make sure we gave him an ark-opening time that didn’t conflict with the conference call, so he could get down from the bimah in time.” (Lopatin said that he had missed the episode of “Entourage” in which the character based on Emanuel’s brother, the Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, sneaks out of Yom Kippur services to talk to a studio head on his cell phone. “That is so funny!” Lopatin said. “I like Jewish characters on TV. I think it’s a good thing.”)
Josh: was rahm’s appointment to chief of staff a way of placating us yids, or does obama really value his advice
YourMoralLeader: i think latter
Josh: i’ve heard rahm is gay
ChaimAmalek: With 80% of the Jewish vote in his pocket, he has no need to placate the Jews
YourMoralLeader: i feel calm about obama
Josh: he’s tall, thin, and dances ballet
ChaimAmalek: gay? He is married
ChaimAmalek: married a hot shiksa who converted
ChaimAmalek: The goyim have reason to complain
Josh: chaim, how many married men secretly harbor their gayness
ChaimAmalek: He volunteered to serve in the armed forces – no, not America’s, Israel’s
ChaimAmalek: A smart Jew might go into ballet just to meet hot shiksas
Josh: let’s see what he has to say when obama calls for the establishment of a palestinian capital in shared jerusalem
ChaimAmalek: Well, he will, and he will say little
Cornfused: personaly I believe we are screwed
ChaimAmalek: Hillary + Bill = wayyyyyyy better than Obama
ChaimAmalek: But liberal whites needed the sort of expiation that only a vote for a seminegro could provide
Cornfused: heard hes blinging out the white house
ChaimAmalek: Woudn’t it be funny if some other things came out about him now?
Josh: little do the 97% of blacks who voted for obama know that obama’s ancestors may have sold them into slavery
Cornfused: putting spinner caps on Air Force one
Josh: white europeans didn’t come to the african jungles with nets and kidnap africans
ChaimAmalek: Bush damn near destroyed the conservative movement and the republican party
Cornfused: taking out the rose garden and planting watermellons
Josh: african tribes who were stronger than other african tribes sold their booty into slavery
Josh: and obama is obviously a descendant of one of those stronger tribes, or else he woulda been born leroy johnson
ChaimAmalek: Luke, got any negro friends yet?
YourMoralLeader: an ethiopian movie producer
ChaimAmalek: That’s a start
ChaimAmalek: Although I don’t know if Ethiopians count
ChaimAmalek: Their noses are suspiciously narrow and their lips thin
Cornfused: I heard that he had lost 90% of the black vote when he told them he was getting all of them jobs
ChaimAmalek: I saw an ad on late night cable for the Ron Popiel Self-Circumcizer
ChaimAmalek: Also works as a great JEWcer
ChaimAmalek: The world wants to know: Is Rahm Emanuel gay?
ChaimAmalek: Is he a poofter?
ChaimAmalek: Are he and Obama living lives on the down-low?
ChaimAmalek: Not that there would be anything wrong with that, mind you.
ChaimAmalek: C’mon Luke, use your gaydar
ChaimAmalek: I think it would be wonderful if he and Obama were and outed themselves.
ChaimAmalek: This would cement America’s acceptance of gays, blacks, and Jews.