Rahm’s ambition was—and probably still is—to be the first Jewish Speaker of the House.
In my view, this is identity politics at its worst.
As a Jew myself, I absolutely delight in the accomplishments of fellow Jews. I also delight in the accomplishments of fellow immigrants, women, journalists, Chicagoans and any other groups to which I feel I belong.
In a situation like this though, I cringe at the use of “the first Jewish_____” Would it really be meaningful for American Jews if Rahm Emanuel became the Speaker of the House? Are American Jews really such a disadvantaged group? Furthermore, how Jewish is Rahm? I’m well aware that the questions of who is a Jew and what does it mean to be Jewish are hotly debated, but I think most of us can agree that when we think of Rahm, we don’t exactly equate him with Moses. Therefore, if he were to become the Speaker, would it really be a giant leap forward for Jews or would it just be the latest career success for an adept politician who just happens to be Jewish? I feel it’s the latter.