Jennifer Rubin, holding what’s become the typical Commentary line, accuses Barack Obama of selling Jews down the river in his Passover remarks:

Obama, as presidents have traditionally done, released a Passover message. It is typical Obama—off-key, hyper-political, and condescending. The core of the message is this:

The enduring story of the Exodus teaches us that, wherever we live, there is oppression to be fought and freedom to be won. In retelling this story from generation to generation, we are reminded of our ongoing responsibility to fight against all forms of suffering and discrimination, and we reaffirm the ties that bind us all.

No, he didn’t have the nerve to recite the emphatic exhortation “Next year in Jerusalem.” And frankly, it sounds like Eric Holder and his civil rights lawyers drafted it. Is Passover really about discrimination? Or is it about the deliverance of God’s Chosen People by God from bondage to the land of Israel? Hmm. Obama notes the “rich symbols, rituals, and traditions” but skips the God part. What is missing from Obama’s secularized spiel is the unique, historic, and, indeed, religious message of the Jewish holiday.

Jon Chait and Matt Yglesias take turns taking Rubin’s piece down.


Gadzooks. Does Rubin really think Obama came up with this kooky notion that Passover has universal implications? I’m not much of a theologian. But I can spot somebody who’s faking it even more than I am, and Rubin is one of those people. At my seder last night, the Ellie Weisel Haggadah explained:

The text does not say that every Jew must feel as if he had come out of Egypt. It says “Every individual.” And here we find we universal dimension of Jewish experience.

And the American Jewish Committee says:

Passover also has universal meaning.

During the civil rights struggle, African Americans, yearning for full equality, sang a spiritual whose words include: “When Israel was in Egypt’s land, let my people go… Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land, tell old Pharaoh to let my people go.”

And did you know that John Adams, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson proposed a national seal with a scene of the Jewish exodus from Egypt?

The most hilarious part of Rubin’s diatribe is her calling Obama “hyper-political.”


On Rubin’s point, this is just a longstanding dispute between liberal Jews (which is like 70-80 percent of us in the United States) and the Commentary-reading minority. I’ve used three or four different haggadahs over the years and they all emphasize the quest for universal justice, as did my Hebrew school teachers and my rabbi growing up. […]

But what about Jerusalem? Obviously as a historical matter this phrase enters our passover ceremonies before the creation of the State of Israel and is meant to suggest a hazy aspiration rather than a specific plan. But for the modern-day American Jew it’s a bit of a problem. After all, nothing is stopping us from taking a Passover trip to Israel or, indeed, from moving to Israel. But I would actually be pretty upset if President Obama expressed the view that in his opinion the meaning of Passover is that Jews should all leave America and go move to Israel. Which is why, obviously, he’s not going to say anything like that. But there’s clearly a tension inside present-day diaspora Zionism. Nobody in my family, including its members who are quite a bit more conventionally pro-Israel than I am, has any intention of moving to a Hebrew-speaking Middle Eastern country. And neither, I take it, does the gang at Commentary. So what’s the problem with Obama not pretending that this isn’t the case?

Read Rubin’s post in full here.