Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Day Janet Reno Came to Shabbat Dinner

When I read of Janet Reno's death yesterday morning, I was immediately transported back 15 years to a weekend in 2001 when the just-retired and embattled former Attorney General came to Albuquerque and had dinner in our home.
Ms. Reno was still feeling the backlash of the Elan Gonzales situation when a girl in our congregation who was about to celebrate becoming a bat mitzvah wrote her a note inviting her to come to the service. This girl came from a troubled family. Her mother was born in a DP camp in Europe and Gonzalez's story of being sent away from and then being reunited with family touched her. To everyone's surprise, she accepted. The important aspect of this story was not Janet Reno's attendance, but her compassion. She came without fanfare or seeking publicity, but simply because of a 13 year old girl she didn't know who reached out and needed to feel special. During the service, this young girl got very emotional. Without blinking an eye, the former Attorney General of the United States jumped up the on the Bema, walked up to her and gave her a big hug. She quietly spoke to her with kindness and compassion and showed true greatness-for no other reason than she wanted to help.
No press covered the story.
She was kind. She was Caring. She was funny.
I was honored to be her host in New Mexico. We spent time together in the car and she came to our home for a small Shabbat dinner with a few friends.
A coda to the story:  about 4 years later, I was traveling through the Denver Airport and I saw Ms. Reno in the baggage claim. I went up to her, and before I said anything, she recognized me. She said: "Rabbi Black!  How are you?  And how is _________ doing?"  She had been keeping in regular contact with this girl - checking in on her and providing ongoing counsel and support.
How many current political figures share her values today?
Zichronah Livracha- may the memory of Janet Reno be for a blessing.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Rabbi Black. A lovely story about a lovely person. It's a shame we can't get to know our public officials, yet we judge.