Saturday, September 16, 2000

Rabbi presents gift to president


Balk was invited to prayer breakfast

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Rabbi Hanan Balk of Golf Manor Synagogue was one of a handful of Orthodox Jewish rabbis to be invited to the White House Thursday for President Clinton's eighth and final annual prayer breakfast.

        After the breakfast, Rabbi Balk met the president and presented him with a shofar, the traditional ram's horn instrument used to usher in Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

        Rabbi Balk said he told the president that the shofar represents “reconciliation and redemption, two elements he had always adhered to while pursuing peace in the Middle East.”

        The president, Rabbi Balk said, promised to continue working on Middle East peace for the remainder of his term.

        “He said he had never owned a shofar, but said he had a friend in Tennessee who played one in a band,” Rabbi Balk said. “I told him he'd have to take lessons.”

        Rabbi Balk was one of about 120 leaders from a multitude of religious faiths to attend this year's White House prayer breakfast and one of four Orthodox rabbis at the event.

        The rabbi said he thinks he received the invitation because his 260-family congregation — the largest Orthodox synagogue in Cincinnati — sent a large delegation to Washington, D.C. earlier this year for a round of meetings with House and Senate members on Capitol Hill.

        The president, Rabbi Balk said, spoke for about half an hour on the nation's obligation to aid Third World nations and forgive their debts.

        After the breakfast — which included a kosher choice for the Jewish representatives — the president stayed around for about two hours, shaking hands and talking with the religious leaders individually.

        “It was like he had all the time in the world,” Rabbi Balk said. “He was schmoozing. He's an amazing politician; he connected with everyone there.”

       



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