Ron Klain, Rahm Emanuel and the Christmas Madness


A story in commenting on the appointment of Rahm Emanuel as President-Elect Obama’s chief of staff, and of Ron Klain as Vice President-Elect Biden’s chief of staff, leads with:

“Both appointees are Jewish, but while Emanuel is an observant Jew, Klain intermarried more than 20 years ago and his family observes Christmas.”

Ron KlainThis is the kind of careless comment, typical of Israeli journalists, that buys into the mistaken notion that a Jew who intermarries and whose family participates in Christmas celebrations is lost to Jewish life.

The author, Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, could have said: “Both appointees are Jewish. Emanuel is a traditionally observant Jew. Klain intermarried more than 20 years ago and his family observes Christmas, but he and his wife raised their children as Jews.”

The author knows this, because buried at the end of the article, he cites a New York Times article which states: “He is married to a non-Jew with an agreement that they celebrate Christmas but raise their children as Jews.”

For all we know, Klain and his family belong to a synagogue and send their children to Hebrew school. Their children may already have become, or plan to become, bar or bat mitzvah.Rahm Emanuel Reuters

There are thousands and thousands of intermarried parents like that — who participate in Christmas celebrations and who are raising their children as Jews. Many of them belong to synagogues, send their children to Hebrew school, and have bar and bat mitzvahs, at rates comparable to Reform in-married parents, as Boston’s most recent demographic study reports.

At we are completing our fifth annual December holidays survey. Thousands of respondents over the years have told us that their Christmas celebration has no religious meaning for them, that it is a way of respecting the tradition of the non-Jewish parent without compromising the Jewish identity of their children. Jewish people celebrate Christmas with Christian friends and relatives as a gesture of connection, not denial of Jewish identity.

The Jewish community ought to be just as proud of the appointment of Klain as it is of Emanuel, and not create artificial distance between Klain and the community because of his marriage.

About Ed Case

Ed Case is Founder of InterfaithFamily and works at IFF Headquarters in Newton, MA.

2 thoughts on “Ron Klain, Rahm Emanuel and the Christmas Madness”

  • Frankly, unless it was relevant, there was no need to mention that Mr. Klain intermarried. Clearly, the statement is to provke a negative reaction which is ridiculous because whether one is observant or not, under these circumstances, has no bearing on Mr. Klain’s credentials or ability to serve in role. Case in point, while Mr. Emanuel is obserant, his political actions and leanings (past and present) leave a lot to be desired; I wouldn’t somehow say “oh gee, what a great guy” merely because he is observant.

  • I belong to a synagogue where close to half the families, including my own, have one non-Jewish parent. The fact that we have chosen to join a Jewish congregation and to raise our kids as Jews is the important thing, to my mind. Israel is such a confusing mixture of religious non-observance and strict adherence to rules that serve both religious and political purposes – they want to have the last word on who is really Jewish, but does that make sense? Judaism and the definition of Jewish identity have both changed and continue to change over time, and there are as many varieties of Jews as there are Christians around the world. Let’s acknowledge our fellowship, accept our differences, and move on. Isn’t that how Senator Obama became the president-elect?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *