Former TV journalist and newly minted politician Yair Lapid’s address to the Rabbinical Assembly’s National Convention in Atlanta yesterday got a lot of attention. In his remarks, he emphasized that he would work for equality for all religious movements in Israel — something that made the Conservative rabbis in the audience smile.
But another politician one-upped Lapid and made the more than 1,600 rabbis laugh. Vice President Joe Biden was on hand to address the plenary, and he got a good chuckle from the audience even before he stepped up to the microphone and said a single word.
Biden pulled this off by making the sign of the cross as the rabbi introducing him mentioned that the Vice President, before assuming his current office, had served with great distinction as a senator from Delaware for 36 years. On hearing mention of his lengthy term of service to the people of Delaware, he reflexively crossed himself as a gesture of gratitude. This, of course, makes perfect sense, given that the Catholic Biden is probably not familiar with the equivalent Jewish custom of declaring “Baruch Hashem” (Blessed be God).
When Biden began to speak, he started to try to explain why he had crossed himself, but as he and the audience just kept laughing about it, he basically gave up and moved on to his prepared speech.
What The Shmooze finds most amusing about this is that, in a room of thousands of Jews, it was the Catholic who was talking with his hands.