When Abraham Lincoln became president, in 1861, a Jewish city clerk from Chicago named Abraham Kohn took it upon himself to send his fellow Illinoisan a picture of the American flag embellished with an inscription from the Book of Joshua: “Be strong and of good courage.”
After Barack Obama was elected, last fall, Shlomo Perelman, the owner of the Pittsburgh-based Judaica Web site judaism.com, decided he would follow Kohn’s example and send the new president a gift. But what to send? A DVD set was clearly out of the question. Instead, Perelman asked an Israeli artist named Michael Meron to create a 50-foot scroll printed with more than 3,000 mazels submitted by well-wishers via a Web site he created for the project, blessingsforbarack.com. Most contributions came from the U.S., but a handful came from as far afield as Britain and Costa Rica; one person entered the Shema prayer, while a woman from Beverly Hills who said her Hebrew name is Bracha took the opportunity to remind Obama that “Barack” is just the Arabic for the Hebrew “Baruch,” or “blessed.”
The megillat brachot, which hasn’t yet been presented to the president, also includes the signatures of Jewish members of Congress, the Hebrew prayer for country and the words from Jeremiah: “Seek the peace of the city in which you live, for through its peace you shall have peace.” “It’s just part of what Jews do,” Perelman told Tablet. “We pray for our country, and we do it no matter who’s in the White House.”
Allison Hoffman is a senior editor at Tablet Magazine. Her Twitter feed is @allisont_dc.