The Jewish press has been abuzz about the news that longtime DC resident—and member of Washington’s venerable Adas Israel synagogue—Dan Shapiro was being named US ambassador to Israel. Given that Adas is located near the Israeli Embassy at Van Ness Street and Reno Road, this announcement raises the possibility of Shapiro and Israeli ambassador Michael Oren conducting business over gefilte fish at a post-service Kiddush.
Mixing diplomacy and davening (Yiddish for “prayer”) is a Washington tradition. In the 1970s, when Yitzhak Rabin was Israel’s ambassador, he attended Adas for the High Holidays with Nixon speechwriter William Safire. The rabbi gave a blistering Yom Kippur sermon advising his congregation “not to let our country be divided and polarized by those who use the technique of alliteration”—an allusion to the Safire-penned speech for Vice President Spiro Agnew criticizing “the nattering nabobs of negativism.” Safire, who had stopped traveling with Agnew to return to DC for the holiday, squirmed. He wrote later that this wasn’t the sin he had come to atone for.
Rabin commiserated with Safire afterward. The writer was grateful for Rabin’s support, and they remained friends despite ideological differences.
This article first appeared in the April 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.