When Kerry learned his grandfather was Jewish

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Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Obama’s nominee for Secretary of State, learned during his 2004 presidential run that his paternal grandfather was Jewish, born Fritz Kohn, in what is now the Czech Republic, Dina Kraft recounts at Haaretz Friday:

His paternal grandfather Frederick A. Kerry, was born Fritz Kohn in a town in what today is the Czech Republic before changing his name ahead of his immigration to the United States a century ago. […]

Kerry’s brother Cameron converted to Judaism after marrying Kathy Weinman, a Jewish woman and fellow lawyer he met on the job at a Washington law firm.

In [2004] as his brother campaigned for president, Cameron Kerry, known as Cam, traveled to Israel for the first time […] During the visit he recalled finding out about his family’s Jewish roots and calling up his in-laws to tell them the news.

“I called up Kathy’s parents and said ‘I’m Jewish,’ and they said, ‘Yeah we know’ and I said, ‘No, I’m really Jewish,'” he said in an interview with JTA at the time.

Reform Judaism magazine, writing in the fall of 2003, said Kerry in fact learned in the 1980s from a relative that his paternal grandmother, Ida, a practicing Catholic, was born Jewish. But it wasn’t until more than a decade later that he learned more about his grandfather’s story:

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Why John Kerry may have to cool his heels on Secretary of State

Conventional wisdom has rapidly taken hold in the wake of President Obama’s reelection victory that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) is first in line of candidates to succeed Hillary Clinton as US Secretary of State.

But Obama administration officials tell the Back Channel that there are several reasons Kerry may have to cool his heels a while–having nothing to do with Kerry not being held in high esteem by the White House. Among them:

1) Secretary Clinton, who met with Obama and Vice President Biden at the White House Friday, feels an obligation to see the Benghazi investigation through and not leave any taint from that investigation to be faced by her successor. This could have her staying on til February or March, one administration source, who requested anonymity, told Al-Monitor Friday.

2) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has told the White House that he will be “furious” if he loses Kerry from the Senate, to leave the Massachusetts Democratic Senate seat vulnerable in a special election race against Republican Scott Brown, who has millions of dollars in the bank left over from his unsuccessful Senate run against Democrat Elizabeth Warren. The White House may feel especially obliged to listen to Reid, because he is a key reason the Democrats held onto their Senate majority, and because “they have to keep Reid happy as a clam” on the fiscal cliff negotiations, the official said. (Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and his wife are due to have a ‘social’ dinner with President and Michelle Obama at the White House Friday night. But while some thought Patrick might be in position to run against Brown if a Kerry nomination leaves the Senate seat open, other sources say Patrick has his eye on the AG job.)

3) While there are important constituencies in and out of his administration pushing for Kerry, including reportedly Vice President Biden, Kerry’s predecessor as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations panel, “Obama loves” Susan Rice, his US Ambassador to the United Nations, the official noted. If Clinton stays on through the Benghazi investigation, that may blunt and defuse Congressional Republican wrath (and political opportunism) over the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attacks that has heretofore targeted Rice, among others, and that has raised concerns about whether a Rice confirmation hearing would become a huge, ugly partisan food fight. (There are also reports of CIA Director David Petraeus being at the White House Friday, and murmurs that some Hill Republicans believe the CIA has not been forthcoming about the CIA role in Benghazi. Update: Petraeus offered his resignation, citing an affair, which Obama accepted Friday. The affair, with his biographer Paula Broadwell, was uncovered by an FBI investigation, apparently of emails sent by Broadwell to a female friend of Petraeus‘ whom Broadwell perceived as a romantic rival.)

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