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Obama Plays the Purim Card

A week ago, Media Bistro’s TVNewser blog reported that the Clinton campaign may have objected to the possible scheduling of a debate on the first night of Passover (although the blog was tentative on this point, suggested other possible motives and issued an update that the holiday’s first night was only one of the nights under consideration).

Meanwhile, Barack Obama is casting his lot with Purim (which, as the JTA notes, is “a holiday that has rarely if ever been commemorated by any other candidate or Congress member.”)

Yesterday, Obama issued the following statement:

Michelle and my daughters and I want to wish all members of the Jewish community a joyous Purim celebration. Purim is a festive time for families, and especially children, with wonderful traditions of dressing in costume, carnivals and games, and giving gifts of food to friends and loved ones. It is also the time when Jews listen to the reading of the Megillah, the story of Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai saving the Jews of ancient Persia from destruction. Even as the parties are held, the songs are sung, and the noisemakers are rattled, the history of a people that has had to fight for its survival, remains at the heart of the Purim story. In our day, the celebration is mingled with a determination to ensure that Israel remains safe and strong, that we fight anti-Semitism wherever it occurs, and that the American Jewish community continues to play such an active and vital role in the life of our nation. To Jews across the country and throughout the world, we send our warm greetings for a happy Purim.

While the Obama campaign displays its deft, Mordecai-like understanding of the Festival of Lots, the JTA is suggesting that the presumptive GOP nominee John McCain has committed a “Purim gaffe.”

In a brief titled “Lieberman corrects McCain’s Purim gaffe,” the JTA reports:

U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Purim is the Jewish version of Halloween during his Israel visit.

McCain was corrected by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), one of the Republican presidential nominee’s chief supporters who accompanied him on the trip, according to MSNBC.

In a news conference Wednesday with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak following a tour of the besieged southern Israeli city of Sderot, McCain had noted the impact of continued rocket fire on the city’s children.

“As they celebrate their version of Halloween here, they are somewhere close to a 15-second warning, which is the amount of time they have from the time the rocket is launched to get to safety,” McCain said. “That’s not a way for people to live obviously.”

Lieberman at the news conference said the fault was his, as he had compared the two holidays in explaining its significance to McCain.

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