Culture, Identity, Politics, Religion

Rabbinical Offspring for FDR

32 year old Rabbi Joshua Boettiger has been appointed spiritual leader of Congregation Beth El in Bennington, Vermont. Boettiger is the great grandson of former United States President Franklin Deleno Roosevelt and his First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt.

Boettiger’s path to becoming a rabbi is made more unique because he grew up in an interfaith household, the son of an Episcopalian father and a Jewish mother. The traditions of both faiths, he said, were given equal time. Rather than a Bar Mitvah, he had what his parents called a “Josh Mitzvah,” a coming-of-age ceremony that incorporated traditions from both faiths. When it came time to choose a single faith, Boettiger said, it wasn’t really a choice at all.
“Growing up, I got a minimal dose of both traditions,” Boettiger said. “Both of my parents were really respectful of the other’s tradition and said that I could choose whatever path felt right for me. … (Judaism) was the tradition that most spoke to me as far as what I imagined my path being.”

Boettiger realizes how it must have been difficult for the first generation of FDR’s descendants, who may have felt pressure to live up to legacy left by the late president.
But Boettiger has suffered no such pressure.
If anything, he said he feels a distant connection to Eleanor and shares a deep respect for her call to public service.
As a Jew and FDR’s great-grandson, Boettiger is often asked if FDR did all he could to save Jews during the Holocaust.
He has acknowledged that his great-grandfather did not do all he could to stop the genocide, but has also called FDR a great friend of the Jews.
His apparently conflicting answers, he said, are representative of an incredibly difficult historical question.
“It’s a complex issue,” Boettiger said.
“Historians have a raging debate about it, and since I’m not a historian I try to stay out of that and just welcome the discussion and to say that it’s not a simple answer.”

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