WSJ Christmas List
ZOA in the news
January 23, 2009



Christmas List
The Zionist Organization of America has a question for President Obama, concerning the statement in his Inaugural Address that “we are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus–and nonbelievers”:

What is the reason President Obama chose this sequence when listing these four religions?

Throughout its history, the United States has always been known as a nation based on Judeo-Christian values and heritage.  

Moreover, surveys show that there are some 5-7 million Jews living in the United States. Most surveys show that there are 1.8-2.8 million Muslims living in the United States.

In contrast, in President George W. Bush’s Inauguration Speech on January 20, 2001, he said the following, “Church and charity, synagogue and mosque, lend our communities their humanity, and they will have an honored place in our plans and laws.”

Hmm, why did he choose that order? It couldn’t have just been random, seeing as how Obama cares so much about words. Let’s consider the possibilities:

He’s not going by number of adherents, as the ZOA statement points out, since there are more Jews than Muslims in America (although curiously the group omits a count of American Hindus). Muslims vastly outnumber Jews world-wide, but then so do Hindus.

He’s not going chronologically, the idea behind “Judeo-Christian” (though come to think of it, one imagines there were nonbelievers before there were Jews). And if he were trying to rhyme, he’d have done something like “Christians, Hindus / Muslims ‘n’ Jews.”

When in doubt, alphabetize: That’s the advice an editor gave us when we were young. But Obama doesn’t seem to have followed it. “Jews” is ahead of “Muslims” in the alphabet; and while “Islam” does come before “Judaism,” “Hinduism” precedes them both.

Wait, we’ve got it! He is going alphabetically–not by the name of the faith or what its adherents are called, but by the name of the central figure in each: Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, Vishnu.

Oh yeah–and Zilch!

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