Democratic convention keeps the faith

For a party trying to change the impression that it hasn’t got enough religion, Democrats got maybe a little too much this week with the opening of the Democratic National Convention.

Hundreds of party faithful got dollops of, well, faith in the cavernous Wells Fargo Theater on Aug. 24 in what organizers repeatedly said was the first time a major party convention was launched with a faith meeting (assuming the Temperance Party doesn’t count).

“We didn’t need to bring faith to the party!” shouted Leah Daughtry, a Pentecostal preacher and the convention’s CEO. “Faith was already here!”

If the Democrats wanted to look diverse, they managed to do so with the absence of a white male Protestant until a very brief glimpse at the very end of the service: There were three Muslims (including two women), four rabbis (three men and one woman), a Buddhist, three black preachers, and so on.

There was a diversity of political opinion as well, making this religious gambit, well, typically Democratic.

A highlight was the keynote speech by Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, who directs the Orthodox Union. His exegesis of the concept of neighborliness, drawing on biblical, talmudic and modern rabbinical examples (Rav Kook cited at a Democratic convention? Go figure), drew enthusiastic applause. He got more than one strong “Amen!” prompting him to plead, “Let’s try the Hebrew amen, Ah-mein.”

The crowd complied and he said, “Now I feel at home.”

Democrats were determined to not allow former President Jimmy Carter to spoil their Denver party with his opinions on the Middle East.

So they screened a video of Carter’s work helping to rebuild homes in Gulf Coast areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After his presentation Aug. 25, Carter did a quick live stage stroll holding wife Rosalynn’s hand to a standing ovation, and then retreated without a word.

In 2004, Carter addressed the convention and even mentioned the Middle East. That, however, was before his controversial book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” and before his meeting this year with Hamas leaders — undertaken partly, it must be said, in a bid to free captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) was all smiles about Joe Biden’s clinch of the vice-presidential spot on Barack Obama’s ticket.

“He’s like mishpoche!” the Florida congresswoman enthused, contemplating the Delaware senator’s spot on the Democratic ticket.

In 1987, Wasserman Schultz explained, she was a member of the Florida chapter of Students for Biden. That campaign went down early in the primaries after Biden’s temper and allegations of plagiarism got the better of him.

Now it’s make-up time, and Wasserman Schultz thinks Biden, a familiar face on the schema-and-shmooze circuit up and down the East Coast, will do a great job winning over older Jewish constituents embittered by the loss of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

“He’ll come down and move around the bagel places and the condos,” she said. “It’ll be like a son.”

These items were adapted from JTA’s politics blog (