Barack Obama may have a deadlock on at least one segment of the Jewish community: his neighbors. KAM Isaiah Israel, the oldest synagogue in Chicago, is directly across the street from Obama’s house.
Members of KAM, a large Reform synagogue, report having seen the Illinois senator engaged in mundane activities around their Hyde Park neighborhood, like buying toothbrushes at Walgreens with his daughters.
But Obama’s Secret Service agents spend more time at the synagogue than Obama himself — especially when they need to use the bathroom.
“They came in to introduce themselves and to apologize in advance for any disruption that their presence might have,” said Sandy Lieberman, KAM’s executive director. Lieberman, in turn, offered to let them use the synagogue’s restrooms.
The bathroom-sharing deal led to unexpected hi-jinks: At the outset of Obama’s presidential campaign, Secret Service agents would sometimes attempt to use KAM’s bathrooms at night, only to trip the synagogue’s alarm.
“But they’ve gotten the knack of it,” Lieberman said. She added that the agents have been “extremely nice,” even doing programs with the synagogue’s nursery school students.
According to Grace Wolf, a Hyde Park resident who is married to the rabbi emeritus of KAM, Obama is backed by a solid swath of the congregation’s members.
“We had been to his fundraisers and met him” when he was an Illinois state senator, said Wolf, who supported Obama in the Illinois primary. “When I would see him at our local supermarket, I would go up to him and say, ‘Hi Senator Obama, I’m Grace Wolf,’ and he would say, ‘How’s the rabbi?’”
And he didn’t even need to use the bathroom.