How Jewish is Rahm Emanuel?

November 13, 2008

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?

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?

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).

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