WASHINGTON Revelers in Washington will have plenty of places to celebrate Barack Obamas swearing-in, including an event organized by some leading Jewish organizations and a trio of unofficial Jewish inaugural balls.
The biggest bash of inaugural weekend will be the Jewish Community Inaugural Reception on Jan. 19 at a downtown hotel. Along with the kosher hors doeuvres and drinks, the event is slated to feature a visit from a top-ranking Obama administration official to be announced.
A portion of tickets to the event will be distributed to those affiliated with the nine sponsoring organizations the National Jewish Democratic Council, United Jewish Communities, AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization, NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia, and the Chicago, New York and Washington federations as well as some Jewish activists who volunteered on the Obama campaign.
The rest of the tickets to the 750-person capacity reception were made available to the public for free on a first-come, first-served basis via registration at the website http://inauguralreception.eventbrite.com, selling out almost immediately.
William Daroff, the director of the UJCs Washington office, said the sponsors wanted to make sure that the event was not just a gathering of Jewish leaders but was open also to those who are not connected to any organization.
Its a celebration of the Jewish-American role in the US as well as the role that Jewish organizations play in civic life, Daroff said.
Ira Forman, the executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, stressed that the event is a nonpartisan celebration and open to all.
The reception is not an official inaugural event, but prominent Obama supporters encouraged Jewish communal leaders as it did with leaders of other ethnic groups to privately sponsor such a gathering.
Those unable to snag a ticket to the official Jewish event have a number of other Jewish-themed options.
Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld is expecting 300 to 400 people Sunday night for what he is calling the National Jewish Inaugural Ball, which will feature klezmer music, dessert and a cash bar at his Washington synagogue, Ohev Sholom-the National Synagogue.
Herzfeld has assembled an eclectic list of confirmed guests, including filmmaker Aviva Kempner, Special Olympics chairman Tim Shriver and Oscar-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr.
Also on the list are high-powered area defense attorneys Abbe Lowell, who represented convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and Bill Martin, who represented former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, along with Martins wife, NPR host Michel Martin. Former New York Knicks player John Starks is slated to come with his friend Rabbi Joseph Potasnik of New York.
Herzfeld said the ball is an opportunity for people to get together on a historic occasion in a Jewish way.
Theres a lot of energy in the air and its great to have the synagogue be a part of that energy, said Herzfeld, who noted that any proceeds of the ball will go to Ohev Sholom.
Its a great opportunity to connect and gather together in unity, he said, adding that whether one is Republican or Democrat, we have one president and we need it to work.
The next night, across the street from Ohev Sholom, the new pro-Obama Jewish Grassroots Action Network will hold its ball at Tifereth Israel Congregation.
The ball, which will feature klezmer music and a kosher dinner, is the culmination of a weekend of events put together by the network, which developed out of a national Jews for Obama group that formed during the campaign.
The groups Shabbaton on Friday evening and Saturday will include a discussion on the roots of Jewish activism in Judaism, and on Sunday and Monday the organization is sponsoring a workshop titled Jewish Grassroots Lessons Learned from the Obama Campaign and Charting the Road Ahead.
The networks president, Yocheved Seidman, said the new organization is a Jewish version of the grassroots structure that the Obama campaign has been creating since the election to help support the president-elects agenda. She said that members, who range from the unaffiliated to Orthodox Jews, dont all agree on controversial issues but agreed on supporting Obama as the best choice for president.
We thought staying together and working across these divisions would be a living example of what Obama accomplished, she said.
Seidman said the workshop will be an opportunity to formulate an action plan and discuss issues on which the group will focus.
Those looking for an early start Monday can hit the $100-per-ticket breakfast being co-hosted by the National Jewish Democratic Council and the pro-Israel lobby J Street. The event is expected to feature appearances by Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Obama-Biden transition team co-chairman John Podesta.
Forman said his organization disagrees with J Street over its recent criticism of Israels operation in Gaza, but that hes not in the business of making pariahs out of fellow Jewish organizations.