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Rabbi Eliezer Silver Meets President Taft

Excerpt from the new OU Press book, The Silver Era: Rabbi  Eliezer Silver and His Generation, by Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff


The Silver Era

On June 12, 1912, [Rabbi Eliezer Silver] was part of a delegation which called upon William Howard Taft, the twenty-seventh president of the United States. It was the first time that such a group of rabbis was received by a president. Their intent was to encourage the president to pursue a more vigorous policy of protest against Russia because of its intense persecution and discrimination of its Jewish citizens… After meeting at the Union Station terminal, the group headed for the White House. On the way, they debated whether they should keep their hats on in the presence of the president. Silver insisted that they leave them on so they could honor the president with the recitation of the blessing, “Who hast given of Thy glory to mortal man.” When the rabbis finally were received by the president, Taft quickly donned his hat out of respect to his guests. Greatly relieved at the president’s gesture, they recited the blessing and translated it into English. Rabbi Silver then blessed the president in Hebrew, and the cantor of a local Washington congregation translated his words into English. Their meeting with President Taft continued in a cordial and relaxed atmosphere. This visit began a warm relationship between Silver and the Taft family which later found expression in his kinship with the president’s son, Senator Robert A. Taft, “Mr. Republican” of Cincinnati.