by Rabbi Steven A. Fox
I was honored today to represent the CCAR at the inauguration of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America, as he was sworn in for his second term. Words cannot really describe the experience of viewing the ceremony with my own eyes–and the experience was at certain times surprisingly emotional. It was quite moving to watch Mr. Obama, his family, and the representatives of the American government walk through this ritual with all of the pageantry that has developed since the inauguration was moved to January back in 1933. But even before the ceremony began, the crowd in our area burst into spontaneous cheering as Tuskegee Airmen walked by us to their seats. Once the program began, speakers honored the legacy of great Americans from the founders of the Republic to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was touching when entertainers of several generations including James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson and Beyoncé sang American patriotic songs and a Cuban-American poet, Richard Blanco, shared his work.
All morning I was struck by the confluence of old and new, the diversity of America’s population as represented by the people all around us, and our country’s history and legacy intersecting with our need as a nation to be re-energized and rejuvenated.
As honored and humbled as I was to receive the Presidential Inaugural Committee’s invitation, I know that the invitation actually was meant for the 2,000 rabbis of the CCAR, the rabbis who lead Reform Jewish life in North America and other places around the world.
Each invitation I have received from the White House for a briefing or a meeting with key leadership or even for the Chanukah celebration serves as an important recognition of the key leadership role that Reform rabbis play in American Jewish life. The arrival of that White House envelope on my desk means that the United States Government has recognized CCAR members as thought leaders and community builders in all aspects of the Jewish community, in every major Jewish organization, and on the ground, working with their community members from all walks of life every single day. The honor bestowed upon CCAR rabbis who were present today is one of the many ways in which CCAR rabbis reinforce our roles as intermediaries between policy makers in Washington and our congregations and communities.
The theme of the 2013 inauguration was “Faith in America’s Future.” Most people will understand this to mean that President Obama’s second term should be looked forward to with “faith” (i.e., hope). I believe “faith” has a secondary meaning for us as Jews. If you interpret the word “faith” as do many of our rabbis and their community members (i.e., religion, culture, spirituality or the like), then my invitation to the inauguration as a CCAR representative makes perfect sense. Faith in America includes our Jewish faith.
As we send President Obama into his second term with our heartfelt prayers, we should each take this moment to re-energize and rejuvenate, as we move forward to face the challenges of our communities with a faith that is grounded in tradition, while at the same time inclusive and forward looking.
Rabbi Steven A. Fox is the Chief Executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
Originally published at RAVBLOG