Rabbi Abie Ingber, executive director of the Center for Interfaith Community Engagement at Xavier University, has been invited to the White House celebration of Hanukkah on Dec. 13. The annual presidential celebration of Hanukkah was initiated by then-President George W. Bush in 2001. This event will be smaller than the Jewish Heritage event Ingber attended in May, providing more of an opportunity to have face time with the president and first lady.
His relationships in Washington have resulted in good things for Xavier. Last year, he headed up Xavier’s selection to the White House Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. He was also invited to the Vatican conference on interfaith relations hosted by the American ambassador.
“My very first invitation to Washington was extended by Rep. Bob Drinan,” recalled Ingber. Drinan was a Jesuit priest, lawyer, human rights activist, and Democratic U.S. Representative from Massachusetts. “It must have been 1974 or 1975. A small group of us students from Hebrew Union College were invited to Capitol Hill and I recall him speaking to us in the Congressional chamber, saying, ‘One of these days I would like to welcome a Rabbi to sit near me in Congress.’ He was looking right at me. I never made it to that House, but now I have been invited to the White House Hanukkah party!”
His final decision to go was based in significant part on a good friend’s urging. “The president of the United States invites you to go, you have to go,” were his words to Ingber.