Last week, my wife and I had the amazing experience of spending half a day at the White House where my 104-year-old father received the National Medal of Arts from President Bush. I say “amazing experience” because I believe that we were able to perform a kiddush Hashem.
There is a feeling of malchus in the White House. It is beautifully kept and tastefully decorated. The soldiers and Secret Service personnel in evidence every few feet were extremely courteous and treated a Jew in a big yarmulke with great honor and respect. But the outstanding event was our encounter with the president of the United States.
During the awards ceremony in the East Room, at which twenty people received medals for service in the “arts” and “humanities” and hundreds more were in attendance, I could see on President Bush’s face the strain of being on the receiving end of constant ridicule and attack. He looks fit and strong, and his manner is friendly and kind, but he appeared to be under inward strain.
I felt that I wanted to give him a blessing. Whatever one may think of his policies, it is clear that he believes in G-d and tries to uphold standards of morality. He respects the people and the State of Israel. I planned to try to speak to him to praise his belief in G-d, to demonstrate to him that the Jewish people are attached to G-d, and to encourage him to stand firm against those who advocate giving away any part of the Holy Land.
But at the time, it all seemed impossible. Immediately after the awards ceremony, the president disappeared with the honorees to a photo session in another room. At the reception in the State Dining Room, which was to follow the awards, it seemed clear that he would be gone, on to his next appointment. My wife and I lingered in the thronged corridor between the East Room and the State Dining Room. Suddenly, I saw a door open and the president emerge, surrounded by Secret Service men. He was rushing through our corridor, headed toward another door. It just “happened” that my wife and I were standing exactly at that door!
About one foot from me, the president stopped and spoke with someone. When he finished, I said quietly, “Mr. President, I would like to give you a blessing.”
He turned, and instantly he was completely receptive to me. It was amazing—I would say min haShamayim. And so I spoke to him from my heart, and this is what I said:
“Mr. President, you are a great man because you believe in G-d, and you are not afraid to say so in public. You uphold morality. One reason you receive flak is that people who do not believe in G-d try to pull you down to their level. I want to give you the blessing that G-d should always give you the right words and that your actions should be in accord with His will. He should guard you and protect you and your family and always be with you.”
I had more to say to the president, but I thought the best way to get that additional message to him was in writing, so I handed him a copy of my book, From Central Park To Sinai: How I Found My Jewish Soul, with a message inscribed on the front flap. This message had been worked out carefully, in consultation with respected rabbis and rashei yeshiva.
When I tried to hand the book to the president, a Secret Service man grabbed it.
“Do you want to give that to the president?” he asked.
“I’ll take care of it.”
And then they were off.
I thank G-d for my few moments with the president of the United States. I wanted him to know that a Jew speaks in the name of G-d.
This is the inscription I wrote in the front flap of the book:
To the Esteemed President of the United States,
The Honorable George W. Bush
Dear Mr. President:
I know that you are great in the eyes of G-d because you have the courage to express your belief in Him and your adherence to a Biblical code of morality. Even against criticism, you have the courage to maintain these beliefs; therefore you have achieved eternal greatness.
In our lifetime, we have seen the miracle of the Children of Israel, after 2,000 years of Exile, returning to the Holy Land. As it says in Isaiah 11:22, “He will … assemble the castaways of Israel … and gather the dispersed ones of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”
Esteemed President, you have been granted the awesome power to assist in the fulfillment of prophecy and directly influence the borders of the Holy Land. With the greatest respect, may I point out that giving away even the smallest piece of the Holy Land would mortally endanger the Children of Israel and impede the G-d-given plan by which those Children are returning to their Land.
May G-d give you heroic strength to ignore and overrule those who advocate giving away the Land that G-d has returned to the Children of Israel. May your name live forever in honor!
With great respect,
Roy S. Neuberger
May Hashem help that our friends among the nations and the leaders of those nations should recognize the sanctity of Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael and that we should soon see the geulah sheleimah and the coming of Mashiach ben Dovid!
(Written by: Roy Neuberger for the 5 Town Jewish Times)