Is Rahm Emanuel a good choice to serve as Barack Obama’s chief of staff in the White House?

REP. RAHM ISRAEL EMANUEL

REP. RAHM ISRAEL EMANUEL

President-elect Barack Obama’s first appointment to a high position in his administration was Rep. Rahm Israel Emanuel (D-Ill.).  The question arises whether Mr. Emanuel’s ties to Israel will interfere with the opportunity for Mr. Obama to work on an effective Israel-Palestine peace plan.

Mr. Emanuel, 49, did not serve in the United States military.  However, he was a volunteer for the Israel Defense Forces at an Israeli army base during the 1991 Gulf War.  His hawkish pro-Israel position — perhaps as strong as the position of Sen. Joseph Lieberman — suggests that the Obama Administration may not promptly end the war in Iraq.  Mr. Obama’s promises about Iraq have gone from “I will bring this war to an end in 2009” (statement made before he won the nomination of the Democratic party) to his current goal of gradually removing troops until most of them are removed by the summer of 2010.

Mr. Emanuel’s Israeli pedigree was discussed by Anshel Pfeffer and Shlomo Shamir, who wrote in the Nov. 6, 2008 issue of Haaretz:

Emanuel, a former Bill Clinton adviser, is the son of a Jerusalem-born pediatrician who was a member of the Irgun (Etzel or IZL), a militant Zionist group that operated in Palestine between 1931 and 1948.

Commentator and humorist Jay D. Homnick tried to visualize the Arab reaction to hearing about Mr. Emanuel’s selection by Mr. Obama.  In the Nov. 7, 2008 edition of The American Spectator, Mr. Homnick wrote:

To the Palestinians, hearing that a Jew was the first pick can’t be encouraging.  To hear he’s an Israeli must be galling.  But to hear he comes from an Irgun family will enrage them to a fever pitch.

The Arabs, even the most simpatico among them, are not fans of the Zionists who liberated Israel from British rule.  The fact that Ben-Gurion, Weitzmann and their Haganah force were political leftists endears them but little.  Still, through gritted teeth they learn to tolerate.  But try and mention Begin’s Irgun or Yitzhak Shamir’s Lehi to any non-Jewish Middle Easterner and watch smoke coming out of their ears.  The Irgun and Lehi were the right-wing, and a much tougher crew.  The story of Anwar Sadat is rendered far more amazing by his willingness to make peace not only with Israel, but an Israel led by arch enemy Begin.

Mr. Homnick wrote that pro-Israel persons “have to like that Obama’s first thumb went into someone else’s eye.”

Shortly after Mr. Emanuel’s appointment was announced, Mr. Emanuel’s father, Dr. Benjamin Emanuel, made a disparaging remark about Arabs.  Speaking about his son’s potential impact on the Obama administration, Dr. Emanuel said in an inteview with Ma’ariv, an Israeli newspaper:

Obviously he’ll influence the President to be pro-Israel.  Why wouldn’t he?  What is he, an Arab?  He’s not going to be mopping floors at the White House.

Dr. Emanuel’s remarks brought a prompt response from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).  In a letter to Rep. Emanuel  dated Nov. 11, 2008 from Mary Rose Oakar, ADC president, and Kareem Shora, the organization’s executive director, the ADC asked Rep. Emanuel to publicly disavow and repudiate his father’s “unacceptable smear.”  Ms. Oakar and  Mr. Shora wrote:

One can readily imagine the justifiable outcry if someone made a similar remark about African-Americans, Jews, or Hispanics, concerning cleaning the floors of the White House.   Do the normal standards of decency and  civility not apply when talking about Arabs? . . . We sincerely hope you distance yourself from any demeaning characterizations of any ethnic, religious, or racial group.

A statement issued by Rep. Emanuel’s office said that Mr. Emanuel called Ms. Oakar and “apologized on behalf of his family and offered to meet with representatives of the Arab-American community at an appropriate time in the future.” 

The ADA website reported that Rep. Emanuel said: “From the fullness of my heart, I personally apologize on behalf of my family and  me.  These are not the values upon which I was raised or those of my family.”

Apology or no apology, Rep. Emanuel’s hard line pro-Israel position can not be dismissed.

A Sept. 25, 2006 article by Nina Easton, Washington bureau chief of Fortune, was titled Rahm Emanuel, Pitbull politician.  Ms. Easton further described the Emanuel family’s Israeli military connection:

“[Rahm Emanuel] has one of the strongest survival instincts I’ve ever seen,” says longtime friend Mary Leslie, who attributes that inner reserve to his Israeli roots.  His father, Benjamin, was born in Jersusalem, the son of pharmacists who had escaped the Russian pogroms.  In the 1940s Benjamin Emanuel interrupted his medical school training in Switzerland to take part in an unsuccesful scheme to smuggle guns from Czechoslovakia to the Israeli underground.  He later served as a medic in the 1948 Israeli war of independence.  (Rahm would echo his father’s dedication during the Gulf war.  With Iraqi Scuds falling on his father’s home country, he volunteered for military-vehicle-maintenance duty near the Lebanese border.)

The Haaretz article by Mr. Pfeffer and Mr. Shamir said that Mr. Emanuel was named for a friend of Dr. Emanuel named “Rahamin,” who was killed while fighting for Lehi.  (Lehi is the Hebrew acronym for the Lohamei Herut Israel, Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, also known as the Stern Gang after its notorious leader Avraham Stern.)

Mr. Emanuel’s surname also results from fighting for Israel.   Elisabeth Bumiller wrote in the June 15, 1997 edition of The New York Times Magazine:

The Boys [Rahm and his two brothers, Ariel and Ezekiel, aka Zeke] went to summer camp in Israel, and reveled in the family lore: in 1933, after their uncle Emanuel Auerbachwas killed in a skirmish with Arabs in Jerusalem, the family changed its last name to his first, as a tribute. 

An article in the Nov. 6, 2008 issue of The Jewish Journal noted that Mr. Emanuel is bearish about a Palestine-Israel peace agreement.  The publication stated:

These days, however, Emanuel is not optimistic about the chance of a Palestinian state arising from the current ruin.  “If you were to say up front, ‘We’re creating a state and then we’re negotiating the details,” he told CNBC last summer, “not only would you be rewarding terrorism, you would be rewarding all the corruption that goes with it.”

Mr. Obama’s selection of Mr. Emanuel supports the position of Ralph Nader that Mr. Obamais siding with hard-liners for Israel.  In an open letter to Mr. Obama dated Nov. 3, 2008, Mr. Nader said that Mr. Obama made a

transformation from an articulate defender of Palestinian rights in Chicago before your run for the U.S. Senate to an acolyte, a dittoman for the hard-line AIPAC lobby, which bolsters the militaristic oppression, occupation, blockage, colonization and land-water seizures over the years of the Palestinian peoples and their shrunken territories in the West Bank and Gaza.

Mr. Nader said that for “there [to] be a chance for a peaceful resolution of this 60-year plus conflict” between Israel and Palestine, there will need to be support by the United States.  He then criticized Mr. Obama for not being even handed in the conflict:

[Y]ou align yourself with the hard-liners, so much so that in your infamous, demeaning speech to the AIPAC convention right after you gained the nomination of the Democratic Party, you supported an ‘undivided Jerusalem,’ and opposed negotiations with Hamas — the elected government in Gaza.  Once again, you ignored the will of the Israeli people who, in a March 1, 2008 poll by the respected newspaper Haaretz, showed that 64% of Israelis favored ‘direct negotiations with Hamas.’  Siding with the AIPAC hard-liners is what one of the many leading Palestinians advocating dialogue and peace with the Israeli people was describing when he wrote ‘Anti-semitism today is the persecution of Palestinian society by the Israeli state.’

In an interview of Mr. Nader by Alexander Cockburn in the Nov. 7/8, 2008 edition of Counterpunch, Mr. Nader described Mr. Emanuel as “the worst of Clinton” and a “[s]pokesman for Wall Street, Israel, globalization.”

Mr. Emanuel was born in Chicago, where he attended Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School.  His family moved to Wilmette, IL, a lake shore Chicago suburb, where he graduated from New Trier High School.  Short in stature (5′-7″) with dark circles under his eyes, Mr. Emanuel also studied ballet at the Evanston School of Ballet.  He obtained a liberal arts degree at Sarah Lawrence College in 1981.  (In an article in the Summer 2003 issue of Sarah Lawrence Magazine Mr. Emanuel said that he studied “American history — we studied mainly by reading Supreme Court opinions on major constitutional issues.”)  Mr. Emanuel also obtained a master’s degree in speech and communication from Northwestern University in 1985. 

While working on his undergraduate degree, Mr. Emanuel worked on the unsuccessful congressional campaign of David Robinson of Chicago.  He worked on Democrat Paul Simon’s election to the U.S. Senate in 1984.  In 1988, he became the national campaign director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).  In 1989, he served as the senior advisor and chief fundraiser for Richard M. Daley’s successful campaign for mayor of Chicago.

After his volunteer service in Israel, Mr. Emanuel became the director of finance for then Governor Bill Clinton’s presidential primary campaign in 1991.

Mr. Emanuel’s fundraising skills were described in the Nov. 6, 2008 edition of The Jewish Journal.  The article quoted Steve Rabinowitz, a political and public relations consultant in Washington who also worked in the Clinton White House: “He schmoozed many, many millions [of dollars] all over the country, including money from traditional Democratic Party givers, who are disproportionately Jewish, and new Democratic givers.”

After Mr. Clinton was elected president, Mr. Emanuel was a senior advisor to Mr. Clinton in the White House from 1993-98.  He served as assistant to the president for political affairs and then senior advisor to the president for policy and strategy.

Ms. Easton discussed Mr. Emanuel’s tenure with the Clinton Administration in her Fortune article on Mr. Emanuel.  She wrote:

A year after Clinton took office, Emanuel was demoted.  “He was very upset,” recalls [brother] Zeke.  “He thought he was going to get kicked out of the White House.”  He didn’t, and neither did he quit.  Instead, Emanuel regrouped, helping lead the charge on key Clinton initiatives, including the crime bill, the assault weapons ban, and NAFTA.  “He was constantly on the offense,” says [Paul] Begala.  Emanuel planned to leave after the 1996 election, but Clinton promoted him to take George Stephanopoulos’s spot as senior advisor for policy and strategy.

Still, Emanuel had political aspirations of his own, which necessitated some financial security.  So in late 1996 he traded in Clinton as his boss for Bruce Wasserstein, a major Democratic donor and Wall Street financier.  ‘Money is not the be-all and end-all for him,” says brother Zeke.  “But he knew he needed money so that wouldn’t be a problem while he was doing public service.”  Over a 2 1/2-year period he helped broker deals — often using political connections — for Wasserstein Perella.

According  to congressional financial disclosures, he earned more than $18 million during that period.  His deals included Unicom’s merger with Peco Energy and venture fund GTCR Golder Rauner’s purchase of SBC subsidiary SecurityLink.  But friends say his competition also benefited from two sales of the Wasserstein firm itself, first to Dresdner Bank and then to Allianz AG.

While a member of the Clinton Administration, Mr. Emanuel was present for the 1993 Rose Garden signing ceremony after the Oslo accord between Israel and Palestine.  It was reported that he choreographed the handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

Mr. Emanuel left his position in the Clinton Administration to accept a high paying investment banking job with Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in Chicago, where he reportedly earned an estimated $16-18 million.

“It’s a striking sum even in the richly paid world of corporate deal-making, let alone for someone without an MBA or any prior business experience other than running a small political consultancy,” said a 2003 Chicago Tribune story about Mr. Emanuel’s substantial earnings.

The timing of his departure from Dresdner Kleinwort was fortuitous for Mr. Emanuel because a few years later the investment bank began booking large losses.

“Dresdner Kleinwort racked up losses towards the end of [2007] from investments in subprime and other risky investments,” reported Reuters on March 14, 2008. 

Dresdner Kleinwort was part of Germany’s Dresdner Bank AG, which was owned by Europe’s biggest insurer, Allianz SE.  In September 2008, The Wall Street Journal reported that Dresdner Kleinwort was eliminating about 3,000 jobs to bring its work force to about 6,000.

In Mr. Emanuel’s first congressional financial disclosure, he reported earning $9.7 million in deferred and other compensation in 2002 alone from Wasserstein Perella and Co.

Mr. Emanuel also has ties to another institution which contributed to the current financial crisis: the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (aka Freddie Mac).  Mr. Emanuel served on the board of directors of Freddie Mac between 2000 and 2003.  

“Clinton’s going-away gift to Emanuel was a seat on the quasi-governmental Freddie Mac board, which paid him $231,655 in director’s fees in 2001 and $31,060 in 2000,” wrote Lynn Sweet in the Chicago Sun-Times on Jan. 3, 2002.  Mr. Emanuel told Ms. Sweet that his duties as a member of the board were to attend quarterly meetings and take part in committee meetings in person or via phone.

Mr. Emanuel ran for United States Representative for the 5th District of Illinois and took office in 2002.  His candidacy was at the end of his tenure with Freddie Mac, which contributed $25,000 to his campaign, according to the Chicago Sun-Times article by Ms. Sweet.  (Freddie Mac was Mr. Emanuel’s third largest contributor.)   He ran for the seat vacated by Rod Blagojevich, who became the governor of Illinois.  During the campaign, he “indicted his support of President Bush’s position on Iraq, but said he believed the president needed to better articulate his position to the American people,” reported Eli Kintisch for Jewish Telegraphic Agency.  

During Mr. Emanuel’s campaign, he was able to get the assistance of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) to condemn allegedly anti-semitic comments made about Mr. Emanuel by the late Edward Moskal, president of the Polish American Congress.  Mr. Moska was supporting Nancy Kaszak, a Polish-American state representative, for the position being sought by Mr. Emanuel.  He charged that Mr. Emanuel had dual citizenship with Israel and had served in the Israeli Army.

Ira N. Forman, executive director of the NJDC, stated in an NJDC press release dated March 7, 2002 that “Emanuel was born in Chicago and never served in the Israeli army.”  

The Israel army status is probably more a matter of semantics (i.e., volunteer in the Israel army or volunteer with the Israel army).  In an interview with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell on the day that Mr. Emanuel endorsed Mr. Obama for president, Ms. Mitchell said to Mr. Emanuel that “you were in the Israeli army” and Mr. Emanuel nodded his head in agreement.  

[NOTE — See 1:19 into the video at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/24970618#24970618See also 0:44 into the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_yA8J-oGQkSee also article dated Nov. 2, 2008 by Orly Azoulay in the Israeli publication Ynet News: “When Bill Clinton began his campaign for presidency, he appointed Rahm Emanuel to direct the campaign’s finance committee.  But Emanuel left when the Gulf War broke out, in order to volunteer in the IDF.”]

After Mr. Emanuel easily defeated Republican challenger Mark Augusti in the general election, he supported the October 2002 joint Congressional resolution authorizing the Iraq War.  The other nine members of the Illinois Congressional delegation including Sen. Richard Durbin voted against the resolution.

An example of Mr. Emanuel’s hawkish, pro-Israel position was pointed out in an editorial by Ali Abunimah in the Nov. 5, 2008 edition of The Electric Intifada:

In Congress, Emanuel has been a consistent and vocal pro-Israel hardliner, sometimes more so than President Bush.  In June 2003, for example, he  signed a letter criticizing Bush for being insufficiently supportive of Israel.  “We were deeply dismayed to hear your criticism of Israel for fighting acts of terror,” Emanuel, along with 33 other Democrats wrote to Bush.  The letter said that Israel’s policy of assassinating Palestinian political leaders “was clearly justified as an application of Israel’s right to self-defense.”

In July 2006, Emanuel was one of several members of Congress who called for the cancellation of a speech to Congress by visiting Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki because al-Maliki criticized Israel’s bombing of Lebanon.  Emanual called the Lebanese and Palestinian governments “totalitarian entities with militias and terrorists acting as democracies” in a 19 July 2006 speech supporting a House resolution backing Israel’s bombing of both countries that caused thousands of civilian victims.

Mr. Emanuel became a member of the house sub-committee that had oversight of Freddie Mac, reported Ms. Sweet in the Chicago Sun-Times.  Ms. Sweet reported that Mr. Emanuel also had options for 2,500 shares of Freddie Mac while he was on the sub-committee.  Mr. Emanuel told Ms. Sweet that it was not a conflict of interest because his financial stake in Freddie Mac was in a blind trust and he would recuse himself from voting on Freddie Mac issues.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) ultimately charged Freddie Mac with assisting in 85 fundraisers between 2000 and 2003 that collected about $1.7 million for federal candidates.  In 2006, Freddie Mac paid a $3.8 million fine to the FEC to settle the case.  See press release from the FEC at http://www.fec.gov/press/press2006/20060418mur.html

In 2005, Mr. Emanuel was named the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).  The committee recruits candidates for the House of Representatives and helps to raise funds for Democrats running for the House.

“As head of the party arm charged with recruiting and electing candidates, [Emanuel] was known to end fundraising calls with the oath: ‘Fuck you.  I love you,'” said an article titled Battering Rahm: Democrat attack dog in the Nov. 8, 2008 issue of London’s The Guardian.

Democratic strategist Paul Begala described Mr. Emanuel’s aggressive style as a “cross between a hemorrhoid and a toothache,” it was reported by Ms. Easton in her article in Fortune. 

“I love Rahm but that’s a small group of us,” Mr. Begala was quoted as saying.   “He’s not a beloved figure like Tip O’Neill or Dick Gephardt.  Rahm’s there because they want to win.”

On his reputation as a Democratic attack dog, Mr. Emanuel was quoted in the Nov. 12, 2006 Chicago Tribune: “I wake up some mornings hating me too.”

Mr. Emanuel is known to be vulgar and overly aggressive when working behind the scenes.  His off-camera vocabulary is said to be peppered with four letter words; he “knows his way around lewd speech as well as any David Mamet character,” wrote Jack Shafer in the Nov. 6, 2006 edition of Slate.  “Emanuel . . . is a drama queen; seething, foaming Mamet production; a big mouth; and a calculating mensch who loves nothing more than to stroke the feed bag for press-corps noshers.”   (Mr. Mamet is a short — 5′ 6″ — Jewish screenwriter/director/producer/playwright/poet from Chicago known for realistic, profane dialog and whose “gritty work . . .reflects the hardened attitude of his native Chicago and often revolves around domineering male characters and their macho posturing.”   Biography on Mr. Mamet promoting his availability as a speaker through The American Program Bureau.

Mr. Emanuel has been said to display “naked aggression” and a “slash-and-burn style,” wrote Robert Kurson in a recent article in Esquire.

An example of Mr. Emanuel’s aggressiveness was mentioned in an article by Joshua Green in the Oct. 20, 2005 edition of Rolling Stone:

[T]here’s the story of how, the night after Clinton was elected, Emanuel was so angry at the president’s enemies that he stood up at a celebratory dinner with colleagues from the campaign, grabbed a steak knife and began rattling off a list of betrayers, shouting “Dead! . . . Dead! . . . Dead!” and plunging the knife into the table after every name.  “When he was done, the table looked like a lunar landscape,” one campaign veteran recalls.  “It was like something out of The Godfather.  But that’s Rahm for you.”

Ms. Easton further described the perception of Mr. Emanuel by other Democratic officials:

He also symbolizes the party’s painful internal divisions.  He is praised by Democratic strategists who think the party needs to resist moving left (nearly twice as many American voters call themselves conservative as call themselves liberal) and distrusted by some in the party’s liberal wing.  He considers Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman a good friend, even though Lieberman’s support of the Iraq War inflamed leftist sentiment and cost him his party’s nomination. . . . Emanuel himself criticizes Bush’s conduct of the war but not the original decision to topple Saddam Hussein.

Ms. Easton further reported about Mr. Emanuel’s support of the Iraq war:

On Iraq, Emanuel has steered clear of the withdraw-now crowd, preferring to criticize Bush for military failures since the 2003 invasion.  “The war never had to turn out this way,” he told me at one of his campaign stops.  In January 2005, when asked by Meet the Press’s Tim Russert whether he would have voted to authorize the war — “knowing that there are no weapons of mass destruction” — Emanuel answered yes.  (He didn’t take office until after the vote.)  “I still believe that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do, okay?” he added.

In an essay dated Dec. 9, 2005, Andrew Cockburn wrote in Counterpunch that Mr. Emanuel recruited candidates who were not strong opponents of the Iraq War.

As [head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] he decides which candidates for the House should get money and other support from the national party.  At a time when any fool can see that the public hates the war more this month than last, and will hate it even more next month and the month after that, [Mr. Emanuel] is doing his best to recruit candidates, preferably rich ones, guaranteed to eschew vocal opposition to the war.

Mr.Cockburn also reported that NAFTA, which passed in 1993, resulted in “the consequent evisceration of the American industrial economy” and that Mr. Emanuel “directed the Clinton White House operation to get the treaty passed by any means necessary.”

Writing in the Oct. 24, 2006 edition of Counterpunch, John Walsh provided insight into Mr. Emanuel’s view on the Iraq war and how to deal with leaders who might criticize Israel:

The war on Iraq benefited Israel by laying waste a country seen to be one of its major adversaries.  Emanuel’s commitment to Israel and his Congressional service to it are not in doubt.  The most recent evidence was his attack on the U.S. puppet Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al Maliki, because Maliki had labeled Israel’s attack on Lebanon as an act of “aggression.”  Emanuel called on Maliki to cancel his address to Congress; and he was joined by his close friend and DSCC counterpart, Sen. Chuck Schumer, who asked: “Which side is he (Maliki) on when it comes to the war on terror?”  In terms of retired Senator Fritz Holling’s statement that Congress is Israeli occupied territory, Rahm Emanuel must be considered one of the occupying troops. 

In April 2006, Mr. Emanuel announced that he would support Hillary Rodham Clinton if she ran for the presidency in 2008.  In January 2007, Mr. Obama asked Mr. Emanuel to support him for his bid for the presidency.  Mr. Emanuel chose to stay officially neutral.

“I’m hiding under the desk,” Mr. Emanuel was quoted by reporter Mike Dorning in the Chicago Tribune.  “I’m hiding under the desk.  I’m very far under the desk, and I’m bringing my paper and my phone.”

Mr. Emanuel stayed neutral in the Clinton-Obama battle for the Democratic nomination until June 4, 2008, when Mr. Obama’s nomination became all but a certainty.  Mr. Emanuel was the last member of the Illinois Congressional delegation to endorse Mr. Obama.  The endorsement was made just before Mr. Emanuel went with Mr. Obama for Mr. Obama’s appearance before the AIPAC executive committee.

Referring to the AIPAC meeting, Mr. Emanuel said in an interview on June 4, 2008 on All Things Considered on National Public Radio:

This is where I wanted to support him.  Without a doubt there were a lot of expectations in today’s speech, and I think he gave a very powerful speech. . . . What is a friend?  Somebody who you implicitly trust for their loyalty and you expect their honesty.  If Barack was elected, Israel would have a friend.

In 2006, Mr. Emanuel became the Democratic Caucus Chairman.  He succeeded Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), who was elevated to Majority Whip.  During 2006, he also co-authored a book titled The Plan: Big Ideas for America with former Clinton policy advisor Bruce Reed, president of the Democratic Leadership Council.  

In The Plan, the authors proposed compulsory service for all Americans ages 18 to 25.  To “fight against the spread of  evil and totalitarianism” the authors suggested increasing “the military’s ‘thin green line’ around the world by adding to the U.S. Special Forces and the Marines, and by expanding the U.S. army by 100,000 more troops.”  They made the plea that “we must protect our homeland and civil liberties by creating a new domestic counter terrorism force like Britain’s MI5.”  (MI5 means “Military Intelligence, Section 5.”)

It is curious that Mr. Emanuel would equate MI5 with protecting civil liberties.  MI5 is reported to have secret files on more than 270,000 persons.  The MI5 was accused by Liberal Democrat MP Norman J. Baker of “hoarding information about people who pose no danger to this country,” reported Martin Delgado in London’s Daily Mail in July 2006.

“A new domestic spying operation is an obvious threat to our civil liberties,” wrote John Walsh in Counterpunch.

A close friend of Mr. Emanuel is David Axelrod, who was Mr. Obama’s chief strategist during his presidential campaign.  Mr. Obama has named Mr. Axelrod as his senior advisor.

Mr. Axelrod signed the ketubah (Jewish wedding contract) at Mr. Emanuel’s 1994 wedding to Amy Rule, who Mr. Emanuel met on a blind date.  Mrs. Emanuel converted to Judaism shortly before their wedding.  She is a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.  They have three children, son Zacharias and daughters Ilana and Leah.  The children attend the same Conservative Jewish day school that Mr. Emanuel attended in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago.  The Emanuels are members of Anshe Shalom B’nai Israel, a modern Orthodox congregation in Chicago.

Mr. Emanuel’s mother, Martha Smulevitz, is a psychiatric social worker and  former civil rights worker.   Emanuel’s older brother, Ezekiel, is an oncologist and bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health.  His younger brother, Ari, is a talent agent in Los Angeles.  He also has an adopted sister, Shoshanna, who is 14 years younger than him.

Photo Credit:

The Washington Post/Getty Images

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One Response to “Is Rahm Emanuel a good choice to serve as Barack Obama’s chief of staff in the White House?”

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