How Jewish is Rahm Emanuel?

November 13, 2008
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President-elect Barack Obama has chosen 48-year-old Rahm Emanuel for the key post of White House chief-of-staff. But does the Illinios congressman get the Jewish vote?

For:
Rahm? What kind of name is that for a Jewish boy? Actually it's Hebrew for "lofty". And that's a big clue. Emanuel is halachically Jewish - dad is a Jerusalem-born pediatrician, mum a radiologist whose maiden name was Smulevitz. Growing up in Chicago he went to Jewish schools and attended summer camp in Israel, a country he's supported ever since, even volunteering for military service there. Before politics, he worked in finance, a field not entirely unfamiliar to Jews. He is said to be the inspiration for Josh Lyman, the Jewish White House chief-of-staff in The West Wing. His three kids are called Zachariah, Ilana and Leah. It's looking very good for Rahm, isn't it?

Against:
His uncompromising attitude to colleages has earned him the nickname "Rahm-bo", and we don't think it was Woody Allen who played that role. He is said to have sent a dead fish to a co-worker he fell out with - perhaps indicating Sicilian-style Mafia tendencies. Emanuel has a reputation for the kind of colourful language rarely heard in synagogue. And - get this - he married a non-Jewish woman (but only after she converted).

Verdict:
Can we call him kosher? Yes we can. The next man to occupy the office next to the Oval Office is one of us.

So we say he is 93% Jewish

Last updated: 2:39pm, September 29 2010