The right joke

President Bush spoke to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington yesterday on the occasion of the group’s twentieth anniversary. The White House has posted his speech here. The speech provides some important insight into the president’s thinking at this time. Apart from the substance of the speech, I want to pause over the special quality of the man making this joke before this audience:

At Tulane University, the Director of the Chabad, Rabbi Rivkin, brought teams of students to New Orleans, and southern Mississippi, and other communities hit by the storm. He called in folks to help. He didn’t say, head away from the storm; he said, let’s take it right to the middle of the storm area to help people. They helped rescue stranded people; they distributed bottled water and self-heating kosher meals; they cleaned up and helped salvage homes; they provided spiritual support for those who lost loved ones. And one of those rescued from New Orleans put it this way: In the days after Katrina hit, Chabad saved lives.” (Applause.)
Rabbi Stanton Zamek of the Temple Beth Shalom Synagogue in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, helped an African American couple displaced by the storm track down their daughter in Maryland. When Rabbi Zamek called the daughter, he told her, “We have your parents.” She screamed out, “Thank you, Jesus!” (Laughter.) He didn’t have the heart to tell her she was thanking the wrong rabbi. (Laughter and applause.)

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