web analytics
May 29, 2015 / 11 Sivan, 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.

Current Top Story
What's happened to NYC's Celebrate Israel Parade?
Israel Rejects as ‘False’ UJA Federation’s Claims about Israel Parade ‘Inclusion’
Latest Indepth Stories
Keeping-Jerusalem

For a peace treaty with the PA, half the Israeli public would agree to divide the Jerusalem

As for the president’s new, softer tone vis-à-vis Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel, this is most likely being driven by the results of the recent Israeli election.

What especially appeals to us is his grand – some critics would say extravagant –view of what the borders of Israel should look like.

There was something else of great importance in play – something we would have liked to see him take into account before deciding to stand with the boycotters.

The establishment of Hebrew University was a cause much beloved to Einstein who in 1923, during what would be his only trip to Eretz Yisrael, delivered the university’s inaugural lecture on Har Hatzofim (Mt. Scopus) and, discussing the theory of relativity, spoke the first few sentences of his address in Hebrew.

The Golden Square wanted Germany to destroy the British and Jewish presence in their country. The Third Reich craved what was beneath the ground – oil.

Ida Nudel’s account of how the Soviets persecuted and punished her was far worse than imagined.

Swim4Sadna is an annual event benefiting Sadna, an integrative special-ed community in Gush Etzion

Prof. Wistrich, was THE foremost historian of anti-Semitism; committed spokesman & advocate of Jewry

Jewish Voices for Peace’s 2015 Haggadah is a blatant anti-Israel screed crying, “L’chayim to BDS!”

On his shloshim, I want to discuss a term I’ve heard countless times about Rav Aharon: Gedol HaDor

After obsequious claims of devotion to Israel, Obama took to criticizing Israel on peace process

Mr. Obama, Israeli voters have democratically chosen to apply Israeli sovereignty over Judea&Samaria

Netanyahu so disdains Shaked’s appointment he completely ignored her after the swearing-in ceremony

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
Dr. Phyllis Chesler

Jews are an anxious group – understandably, given the millennia of persecution – and want to have no trouble.

Dr. Michael Berenbaum

Why do Jews, then, sometimes feel more intensely about Polish anti-Semitism than they do about German anti-Semitism?

Mitchell Bard is nothing if not prolific. He has written and edited 23 books, including “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East” and “The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in the Middle East.” Bard, who has a Ph.D. in political science from UCLA, is also the executive director of both the […]

You have to understand that Ukraine was really a very, very Jewish place for many years.

What I think is going on here is the Midrash is making a comment about Rut’s love for Naomi being some sort of reflection of how we have to love God.

HarperCollins’s omission was especially egregious because it is a major general and educational publisher.

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.”

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: