web analytics
February 1, 2015 / 12 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Writing Divrei Torah To President Clinton: An Interview with Rabbi Menachem Genack

Rabbi Genack and President Clinton (Photo by Robert Cumins)

Rabbi Genack and President Clinton (Photo by Robert Cumins)

Where did Clinton attain his biblical knowledge?

First of all, he’s extremely smart. It’s hard to quote a book to him that he hasn’t read. He’s constantly reading. And I guess maybe it’s part of the Southern Baptist tradition [to know the Bible].

Is it true that he asked you for advice when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke?

I don’t want to presume that I’m the only one he spoke to – obviously he spoke to a lot of people – but he did ask me what I thought he should say when he addressed the nation. I told him he should express profound remorse but I also said that presidents have a right to privacy.

The Midrash asks, “Why is it that animals can’t speak?” and answers that if they could speak, they would tell our foibles and failings – since they are all over the place – and no one could survive. So the point I wanted to derive from the Midrash is not just that privacy is a right, but also that it’s an existential need.

[Incidentally], that actually was not such good political advice because Clinton did mention that presidents have the right to privacy, and he was criticized for it.

In his preface to Letters to President Clinton, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks writes that Jews should be more active in sharing the truths of the Torah with the wider world. Do you agree?

I agree that the Torah has something to say about how we live our lives and that it has a universal message that is meaningful beyond our own daled amos. Adam HaRishon and Chava are buried together with Avraham and Sarah, and Rav Soloveitchik said this indicates that we’re interested in mankind. We’re part of Knesses Yisrael but we’re also part of humanity, and we do have a message.

In fact, the basic documents of the United States [are based on] Jewish ideas – the dignity of man, “tzelem Elokim.” These ideas were absent in the pagan world. So we can be proud that it was Jews who gave this to the world.

The letters in this volume are basically theological or ideological in nature. Why didn’t you take advantage of your friendship with Clinton to write to him about specific issues of concern to the Jewish community, such as the imprisonment of Jonathan Pollard?

There were such letters. In terms of Jonathan Pollard, I was actually the one who spoke to him initially about reviewing the Pollard case. I spoke to him about Pollard several times, and I think he was sympathetic in thinking about it.

In terms of why that’s not in the book: It didn’t belong in the book. The book isn’t about politics. It’s about biblical themes. But I can tell you, having traveled with President Clinton several times and having spoken to him and seen him up close, that he has a tremendous affinity and love for Israel.

It’s interesting you say that because many supporters of Israel dislike Clinton. While the Oslo Accords may have originally been Israel’s idea, it was widely perceived in the 1990s that Clinton pressured Israel into making concessions to the Palestinian Authority.

I disagree with that perception. I don’t think Clinton ever pressured Israel.

How about when Benjamin Netanyahu was prime minister in the late 1990s? He clearly seemed ambivalent about Oslo at the time and many thought Clinton prodded him to make more concessions to Yasir Arafat than he otherwise would have.

I’m not a foreign policy expert. It doesn’t make sense for me to debate Oslo with you. But I can tell you this – and this is true of both Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton: They have a deep affinity for Israel.

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Writing Divrei Torah To President Clinton: An Interview with Rabbi Menachem Genack

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Jeremy Bird, working for Israeli campaign outfit V15, shown at Ted Talk, May 20, 2014.
Likud Charges Opponents with Illicit Funding Through US-backed V15
Latest Indepth Stories
Eli Weiss

Shepherding in the Shomron isn’t your usual kind of shepherding – despite his business-minded beginnings, Eli has discovered that a strong ideological impetus powers the job.

Resnick-013015-Pilot

I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”

Eller-013015

His entire existence was about spreading simcha and glorifying G-d’s name on a daily basis.

IRAN-US-POLITICS-MILITARY

An Israeli strike could theoretically damage Iran’s nuclear program; only US can terminate program

At some point we need to stop simply defending and promoting Israel and start living in Israel

“We Jews are the only people who when we drop a book on the floor pick it up and kiss it.”

Though Zaide was the publisher of The Jewish Press, a big newspaper,I always remember him learning

Speaker Silver has been an extraordinary public servant since his election to the Assembly in 1975 and has been an exemplary leader of that body since 1994.

He spent the first leg of his daylong visit to the French capital at Hyper Cacher.

Drawing Congress into the Iran nuclear debate is the last thing the White House wants.

Great leaders like Miriam and like Sarah Schenirer possess the capacity to challenge the status quo that confronts them.

Obama’s foreign policy is viewed by both liberals and conservatives as deeply flawed

Many journalists are covertly blaming the Charlie Hebdo writers themselves through self-censorship.

Why does the Times relay different motivations and narratives for jihadists in Europe and Israel?

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
Resnick-013015-Pilot

I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”

Resnick-012315-Artist

Nouril concluded he had no choice: He had to become more observant.

I was very pro-Israel, I was very proud of being Jewish, and I was living in New York at the time as a single man in my 20s and I was just looking for a little bit more.

A school voucher means the state is giving you a voucher to send your kid to whatever school you want. That might be problematic as far church-state issues are concerned.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

To many Orthodox Jews the issue is “Permitted & Prohibited;” “Right & Wrong” barely considered,

You can’t say “Jewish French,” “Jewish British,” “Jewish Italian.” They are “French Jews,” “British Jews,” and “Italian Jews” – because they’re seen as Jews first and residents or citizens of their countries second.

Another thing they have been covering up is the nature of the building that was attacked. To this day people refer to it as a consulate or an embassy, but it wasn’t.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/writing-divrei-torah-to-president-clinton-an-interview-with-rabbi-menachem-genack/2013/11/13/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: