Edited by Rabbi Menachem Genack
Co-published by OU Press and Sterling Publishers
Regularly $24.95 / Now $15
Hardcover, 256 pages
Letters to President Clinton celebrates a unique chapter in the annals of American political and religious history: a written dialogue between the prominent Rabbi, Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kashrus, and former President Bill Clinton that spanned more than 15 years. The two men first met in 1992 when then-Governor Clinton was just beginning his road to the White House. Rabbi Genack was asked to introduce Governor Clinton as a presidential candidate at a fund-raising event. In his presentation, Rabbi Genack emphasized that a leader must have a vision and quoted a verse from the Book of Proverbs: “where there is no vision, the people perish.” Governor Clinton enjoyed the remarks, and told Rabbi Genack that he would refer to the verse in his speech accepting the nomination — which he did. So began a friendship which evolved into Rabbi Genack’s sending President Clinton brief essays containing insights from the Torah that Rabbi Genack thought would help the President navigate the national issues he was facing.
During his second term, the President asked Rabbi Genack to write these pieces more regularly and formally, and Rabbi Genack invited many of his distinguished acquaintances — Bible scholars, political leaders, scientists, clergy members, and laypeople — to contribute and share, in their own unique ways, the contemporary messages found in the wisdom of the Tanach.
In all, Rabbi Genack sent over 100 essays to President Clinton. The essays captured the President’s attention. Referring to them as “mini-sermons,” he responded to quite a few with hand-written notes and encouraged Rabbi Genack to continue the steady stream of thought-provoking doses of direction and guidance for challenging times.
Letters to President Clinton is a selection of these essays, and photocopies of many of the President’s notes are included in the book.
Organized according to a variety of themes — leadership, creation, community, sin and repentance, faith, holidays, dreams and vision — the essays plumb the depths of the Tanach for messages that are relevant to the leader of the most powerful country in the world. Some of the narratives are familiar — the Ten Commandments, the splitting of the Reed Sea, the creation of the world — and some less so, but each essay contains insights that bring alive the Torah’s wisdom. One essay, written by Daniel C. Kurtzer, a member of the United States Foreign Service who served as ambassador to both Israel and Egypt, explores Biblical accounts of diplomatic envoys and distills important lessons for contemporary diplomacy. Prominent judge Judith S. Kaye finds broad messages of justice and social concern intertwined within the detailed Biblical rules of agricultural and commercial behavior, and sees these messages as the source of noble trends in American legal and judicial philosophy. World-famous scientist Samuel J. Danishefsky hears the echo of Joseph and his dreams in Martin Luther King’s memorable address, “I Have a Dream.”
With a Foreword by President Clinton, Letters to President Clinton is both a testament to the vitality of spirituality in our country and an engaging collection of thoughtful perspectives on Torah and Jewish thought.