Rep. Eric Swalwell questioning Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during a hearing of the Judiciary Committee, Dec. 13, 2017 (Screenshot/YouTube)
Rep. Eric Swalwell questioning Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during a hearing of the Judiciary Committee, Dec. 13, 2017 (Screenshot/YouTube)

How Rebbe Nachman ended up in yesterday’s Judiciary Committee hearing

Former Camp Tawonga director Ken Kramarz was watching a Judiciary Committee hearing on CNN yesterday when he heard California Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-East Bay) quote, nearly word-for-word, the famous saying of 19th-century Hasidic master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov: “The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important part is not to be afraid.”

Kramarz called Tawonga assistant director Aaron Mandel “screaming with excitement,” Mandel told J. Every Jewish summer camp staffer and kid in America recognizes the rebbe’s quote as the lyrics to a hugely popular song session tune, “Gesher Tzar Me’od.”

Here’s the video of Swalwell’s remarks during the hearing (the relevant part starts around 4:20):

In it, one sees the Judiciary Committee questioning Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (who is Jewish). Swalwell (who is not Jewish) asks Rosenstein whether he is attempting to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Swalwell then closely paraphrases Rebbe Nachman: “Deputy Attorney General, your investigation is a very narrow bridge. The important part, I believe for our country, is for you to not be afraid. During these trying times, we need you to be fearless.”

So how did this quote make its way into Swalwell’s comments? Suggested by a Jewish staffer, perhaps? J. called to find out.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing special to see here, according to a spokesperson for the congressman. “It’s a quote from Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav,” Swalwell said. “Occasionally, it comes to mind.”

Anyway, a fun moment for current and former Jewish summer camp kids (and fans of Rebbe Nachman).

David A.M. Wilensky
David A.M. Wilensky

David A.M. Wilensky is the digital editor of J. He can be reached at david@jweekly.com.