FDR’s Great-Grandson, The Rabbi

By George, she has done it again. Miriam has tipped me off to yet another article that I thought was worth bringing to your attention.

I have been trying to think of a good way to bring in Teddy Roosevelt as well so that I could use a line like “Speak softly and carry a big Tallis” or some other smart remark. Anyway, I am pressed for time so here are two sections of the article that caught my eye.

“Joshua Boettiger may be the only rabbinic student who can trace his roots to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
The 31-year-old is a great-grandson of Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Depression and World War II leader alternately exalted and reviled by the American Jewish community.

The elder son of an Episcopalian father –– the son of President Roosevelt’s daughter, Anna –– and a Jewish mother, Boettiger grew up attending church and synagogue. “I don’t know whether to be Jewish or Christian,” a 5-year-old Boettiger told his parents. “I think I’ll just be Republican.”


“When Boettiger was 13, his now-divorced parents threw him a “Josh Mitzvah,” a Jewish coming-of-age ceremony that was more intellectual than religious in nature. But what ultimately catapulted Boettiger from a spiritual no man’s land was the college semester he spent in Damascus, Syria, where he was forced to conceal his Jewish roots. “Syria had more to do with my commitment to Judaism than any of my trips to Israel,” said Boettiger, who grew up in North Hampton, Mass. and Sebastopol, Calif. “It wasn’t until my Jewish identity was called into question that I realized how important it was to me.”

This is a consistent theme among many people, or so it seems to me. So many of my friends have become religious after an experience in which their Judaism was called into question. Suddenly something that had little or no meaning became very important to them.

I have always found that to be kind of interesting, it is almost like a switch was thrown in their head and the light turned on.

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