Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Harold Pollack Headshot

Now It Must Be Told: Barack Obama's Worst-Kept Secret of the Campaign

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

Pardon this departure from weighty matters. My next posting will be an unfunny analysis of emergency department crowding. This tongue-in-cheek riposte is dedicated to the war-weary veterans of the Democratic primary trench wars. I draw upon the work of my Kos doppelganger haroldp.

He is only jealous that I seem to get more press.

Some years ago, Nobel author Toni Morrison revealed that Bill Clinton was America's first black president. In that spirit, I feel that I must reveal an uncannily similar secret: Barack Obama, if elected, would be our nation's first Jewish president.

Surprised? You shouldn't be. Consider the following eight clues:

1. His mom was a free-spirited agnostic obsessed with his education.

In my fuzzy recollection, Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run shows an inept bank robber and his family being chased by police. In the back of the careening getaway car, a central-casting Jewish mom is giving her child a reading lesson.

She was based upon Barack Obama's mom, Stanley Ann Dunham. In Dreams of My Father, Obama relates how she would wake him in the wee hours to give extra school work. Sound familiar? True, Dunham married a brilliant black man. But then, so did my aunt, and she worked for the American Jewish Committee.

2. His wife seems to like him, but kvetches about him in public.

They say that behind every strong Jewish man is a rather unimpressed Jewish woman who is kicking him forward. OK, I don't know who says this. I do know that millions of Jewish women aren't afraid to call out their husbands. Some seem to enjoy this. At first glance, Michelle Obama may seem the shiksah goddess type. She actually resembles thousands of strong and successful Jewish women who were often the first to crack through glass gender ceilings.

3. He is a lawyer and community activist

He has a direct connection to Saul Alinsky no less.

4. He was president of the Harvard Law Review

This gave nachas to his mother. And check out the group picture: lots of familiar faces. Harvard Law Review editors are pretty smart -- another trait often associated with us, though not always presented as an unmixed blessing.

5. He taught at the University of Chicago

You don't have to be Jewish to teach here, but in the land of Saul Bellow, Milton Friedman, and the vaunted Latka-Hamantaschen debate, you can hardly avoid it.

6. He squabbles with Democratic relatives in New York

Who hasn't? And in his case, one of the cranky relatives is Al Sharpton.

7. He plays basketball at the Y.

Gentiles may not consider hoops to be Jewish. In its early days, however, the NBA was dominated by Jews. (Players were jeered as "Howies" by rude fans. Look it up.) This domination continues, now mostly at the ownership level. Israelis are crazy about basketball. Across America, legions of middle-aged Jewish men hack around lunchtime in the gym.

I've seen YouTube clips of Obama's high school play. Personally, I think Irv from the Y would take him to school. At least Irv could have done so in 1957.

8. He's funnier than Joe Lieberman

In the year 2000, the people who brought you Lenny Bruce and Jon Stewart brought forth their first vice-presidential candidate. And he was... well, less entertaining than Dick Cheney. Talk about a shonda.

Barack Obama would restore the laconic humor for which 3,000 years of Jewish history has so richly trained us. Plus, he wouldn't have to look up "laconic" in the dictionary.

I hesitate to reveal this secret here. I don't want some push-pollster to ask: "Would it concern you to learn that Barack Obama is actually an Islamic Jewish atheist?"

There also seems to be some evidence that Senator Obama is not Jewish, that he actually belongs to the Christian church he has attended for twenty years. Even if he isn't Jewish, he does embody positive stereotypes associated with us: intellect, success based on merit, commitment to social justice, self-overrated basketball skills.

With primaries approaching in Florida and elsewhere, political operatives are spreading whoppers about Senator Obama within the Jewish community. That's the real shonda. The truth is: He has strong ties to the Jewish community. He has frankly condemned various miscreants such as Louis Farrakhan. The anonymous calls and emails are less truthful than this essay.

I do still have some questions about his baseball trivia knowledge and hypochondria before I am ready to say that the Senator is truly one of the mispocha.

One thing is certain. He is a lot more Jewish than the boychik who currently occupies our nation's highest office.