We have absolutely no idea whether Rabbi Yehiel M. Kalish, the Chicago-based director of government affairs for the Orthodox advocacy group Agudath Israel, was among the 500 or so people to score a coveted invitation to next week’s White House Hanukkah party. However, he did apparently get to spend 45 “quality minutes” in the West Wing with David Axelrod, President Obama’s senior adviser. According to an email update Kalish circulated earlier today (not online), he called on Axelrod to talk about school vouchers and federal funding for parochial schools—a key issue for the Agudath, whose members primarily send their children to yeshivot—but also digressed into other issues, like Iran’s nuclear program and Israel’s security. According to Kalish, Axelrod responded by recounting his childhood fundraising efforts on behalf of the Jewish National Fund, which involved carrying “blue and white pushkas” around the Lower East Side. Kalish explains that’s all he needed to hear: “We feel strongly that Mr. Axelrod takes this issue as seriously as we do,” he wrote. Mr. Axelrod: consider that Agudath Israel’s Hanukkah present to you.
Allison Hoffman is a senior editor at Tablet Magazine. Her Twitter feed is @allisont_dc.