L.A. leaders to attend White House reception for Jewish Heritage Month

Even though the White House won’t divulge the guest list for this Thursday’s Jewish Heritage Month reception, the names of the chosen few are slowly leaking out—and many of them are based in Los Angeles.

So far, we’ve learned that Rabbis David Wolpe and Sharon Brous will attend the reception, along with a shining cohort of community leaders, activists and innovators including: Olympic swimmer Dara Torres, Jumpstart co-founder Shawn Landres, JDub records CEO Aaron Bisman, as well as Eli Winkelman, the founder of Challah for Hunger and Mindy Finkelstein, the young woman who was wounded during the 1999 shooting at the JCC.

According to an Associated Press report, the guest list is “an eclectic and interesting one — and markedly different from past Jewish-themed events” held at the White House. The story notes that the “most prominent guest on the list, according to several people familiar with it: former baseball great Sandy Koufax, the left-handed Hall of Fame pitcher for the Dodgers who famously refused to pitch in a World Series game on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism.”

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Obama Administration’s outreach to the Jewish community comes during a time of tense relations between the U.S. and Israel, with an American Jewish community that feels increasingly divided on the administration’s approach. The AP report refers to the reception as just another gesture in Obama’s “charm offensive”, though Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), a Jewish member of congress, told the AP she’s been lobbying to see this event realized since mid-way through the Bush Administration. Indeed, it was President George W. Bush who signed Jewish Heritage Month into law in 2006.

Wasserman Schultz said she doesn’t believe there is any ulterior motive related to Obama’s invitation. “This is a way to demonstrate that President Obama is committed to the Jewish community. But also it’s a way to educate Americans about the contributions of American Jews, to breed tolerance and understanding,” she told the AP.

Read more about the White House reception for Jewish leaders here.