I’m collecting official Rosh Hashanah greetings from the campaigns and the administration, which make for an interesting compare and contrast. So far I’ve gotten the president’s message and Obama’s (I’ll post about McCain’s if and when he sends one).
Here’s the president’s:
I send greetings to those celebrating Rosh Hashanah.
On this occasion of spiritual reflection, people of the Jewish faith in our country and around the world recognize the blessings from the Almighty as they commemorate the anniversary of the creation of the world. During this holy time, men and women take time to remember the past, contemplate the sweetness of the new year, and look forward to a promising future. This special occasion is also an opportunity to celebrate the history of the Jewish people and the values that bind us all together.
Laura and I send our best wishes for a meaningful Rosh Hashanah and L’shanah tovah.
Nice past, present, and future theme. The part about Jewish history is interesting and a little unexpected. Note in last line the word “meaningful” where the traditional Jewish greetings talk about “sweet” and “good”; it’s only in the past decade or so, I’d venture, that serious-minded Jews began using the world “meaningful” in this context, stressing the idea that R.H. is not just the Jews’ Jan. 1 but a period of reflection with spiritual work to be done. I bet someone in the White House speech-writing corps is part of one of DC’s more “serious” minyanim.
Finally, note Bush’s use of “Almighty.” In previous greetings to the Jews he has been more forthright in speaking about God than, for example, was Bill Clinton — reflecting Bush’s own religiosity, no doubt, and view of where God belongs in public discourse.
Contrast with Barack Obama, as we see here, in his official greeting:
“As Jews around the world celebrate Rosh Hashanah, I want to send my best wishes for a happy, healthy, and sweet new year. This marks not just a time for rejoicing, but for reflecting on the hopes the new year brings, and on our responsibilities to see them fulfilled. As families come together to mark the High Holy Days, upholding a proud Jewish tradition, let us all rededicate ourselves to the task of repairing this world for our children and grandchildren, and to working to achieve peace and security for Israel. On behalf of all of the Obamas and Bidens, Shana Tovah.”
No God in these greetings, perhaps reflecting a Democratic Party that is a little more committed to the seoaration of church and state (or, a critic might say, less comfortable with talk of God). “Repairing this world” is a direct translation of tikkun olam, language that has been popularized by the Jewish left as a term for social action, and basically absorbed by the Reform and Conservative movements, and by unaffiliated Jews who want to put a Jewish marker on their politics or activism. These remarks would go down well in most Reform and Conservative synagogues, or at the annual meetings of most of the big Jewish defense and policy orgs.
Obama also references Israel, while Bush does not. Obama’s campaign knows he has work to do of his own in convincing the Jewish swing vote of his pro-Israel bona fides.
The “meaningful” aspect of Rosh Hashana is suggested here in the line about “responsibilities” – stressing the serious side of Rosh Hashana that goes along with the “sweet”and “happy” aspects.