The Human Side of the Story

For the week ending 23 November 2002 / 18 Kislev 5763

A Friend in High Places

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"This is the word of G-d and we must respect it."

Thus spoke an evangelical preacher as he showed his family a pair of tefillin that he had brought home.

The preachers family lived at one time in an apartment over a store owned by a Jew who befriended them. When the family moved they took along the mezuzah that had been on their door to their new home.

The preachers wife grew up in a Jewish area of Chicago where she graciously consented to serve as a "Shabbos goya" whenever needed.

All of this would not appear to be of special significance except for the fact that these were the parents of a very important friend of Jews in one of the highest offices in the USA Attorney-General John Ashcroft.

Writing about this friend of Jewry in the "Baltimore Jewish Times", M. Hirsh Goldberg points out that Ashcroft has, throughout his political career, surrounded himself with Jews, especially those proud of their Jewishness. When, as governor of Missouri, he began his successful campaign of the U.S. Senate, one of his aides was Jeff Ballabon, an alumnus of Baltimores Ner Israel Rabbinical College and Yale Law School. As senator he had three observant Jews on this staff, and at his confirmation hearings for attorney-general an aide by the name of Simcha Lyons, a kippa-wearing observant Jew, sat near him.

Since the FBI is under the jurisdiction of the attorney-general, Ashcroft mentioned at these hearings that it was a career FBI person, whom he referred to as "Uncle Phil", who had been an important influence in his life. Uncle Phil, concludes Goldberg, is not a blood relative but rather a Jewish neighbor.

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