Sometimes a Jewish sensibility is just a sensibility

Sometimes a Jewish sensibility is just a sensibility

Sen. John McCain’s truly moving concession speech last week was Jewishly resonant. Though it dealt with his own loss, it was filled with rakhmones, with compassion for the long suffering and disenfranchisement of black people in America.

As Leo Rosten wrote in his marvelous “Joys of Yiddish,” “the Hebrew root rekhem, from which rakhmones is derived, means ‘a mother’s womb.’ The rabbis taught that a Jew should look upon others with the same love and feeling that a mother feels for the issue of her womb.”

So when I read in Newsweek’s masterly election issue that the speech had been written by Mark Salter, I thought, bingo! The speech sounded Jewish because it written by someone Jewish. (And by the way, to McCain supporters among our readers, who are astonishingly quick to see slights where none exist, it is not disrespectful to note that he does not write his own speeches. Most politicians don’t.)

Still, you can never tell about names, so I e-mailed our expert on “Who’s Jewish,” our Noshes columnist Nate Bloom, just to be sure.

His answer: “I was never quite sure what Mark Salter was and never looked it up. Thought he might be Jewish. But … [h]e is a Roman Catholic who grew up in Davenport, Iowa.”

Nate cited a Newsweek article,, and added that ‘Rahm Emanuel, of course,” President-elect Obama’s choice for chief of staff, “is Jewish. As is Lawrence Summers, who is being touted as a likely treasury secretary.”

So much for the vaunted “Jewish sensibility.” Still, the man writes a good speech.