Sisterhood Blog

When Miss Israel Meets President Obama

By Sarah Seltzer

  • Print
  • Share Share
Two Trailblazers: Miss Israel Yityish Aynaw, the first black woman to win the crown, is going to a state dinner with President Barack Obama. What will she say to him about her country?

This week Yityish Aynaw, the first black Miss Israel will sit down with Barack Obama, the first black U.S. President. The former may be a beauty pageant winner and the latter the leader of the free world, but beyond the different job descriptions they have a lot in common. Their respective victories made them “firsts,” and by making the strides they have, they’ve also been subject to unfair and unwarranted vitriol, much of it downright racist.

Both Aynaw and President Obama have found success in nations that were founded on noble ideals about freedom from persecution, and proven that individuals can overcome discrimination. As Aynaw herself noted, “For me, [President Obama] is a role model who broke down barriers, a source of inspiration that proves that every person really can reach any height, regardless of their religion, race or gender.”

But unfortunately while success for minorities is possible in both countries, it remains far from probable due to entrenched oppression. In fact, both nations have won new measures of freedom for their own people too often and too intrinsically on the backs of the oppressed, whether second-class citizens at home or victims of occupation and foreign wars.

Obviously I am painting with broad strokes here — and looking at this historic meeting with my own agenda as a young progressive American — but the parallels really do exist. I wish that as they sit together over what will undoubtedly be a delicious meal, Aynaw won’t just schmooze with the President and advocate for the release of Jonathan Pollard (although by all means, she should advocate for whatever she wants to!).

In addition, I hope that her overall experience as a woman and a person of color in Israel (a country like ours whose lofty aims have fallen short in reality), will inform the meeting. In my fantasy, talking with Aynaw will push the President to be courageous and stand up for Mizrahi Jews, Jews of color, Arab-Israelis and women who wish to pray alongside men but can’t. I also hope it will encourage him to seek out an end to the occupation of the Palestinian territories alongside a commitment to peace.

Of course, none of these things can be achieved without offending someone, but after all, we’re talking about a pair of people who both know how to look graceful while upending entrenched norms and win over hearts and minds while disturbing others with their very presence.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: yitkish aynaw, sexism, racism, president obama, miss israel, feminism, barack obama

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.