CHUMMY: George and Laura Bush with Donald and Paula Etra at Camp David.
What is particularly striking about Etra’s long friendship with Bush, and his reputation as one of the president’s closest Jewish associates, is the rather less publicized fact that Etra is, by his own description, a liberal Democrat.
As the Bush administration winds down, Etra spoke with the Forward about everything from the president’s take on Purim to why Etra remains fiercely loyal to Bush despite their political differences. A member of two Modern Orthodox synagogues in L.A.’s Pico-Robertson district, Young Israel of Century City and Beth Jacob Congregation, Etra boasts a star-studded client list that includes the likes of rapper Snoop Dogg and actress Fran Drescher. He recently represented the Spinka rebbe, a Brooklyn Hasidic leader, at a bail hearing related to charges that the rabbi defrauded the government of millions in tax dollars.
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, Hillel executive director at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a former client of Etra’s, described Etra as “a liberal Orthodox Jew with a very rational worldview.”
“My sense is that he’s a type of careful liberal, an-old style Democratic liberal,” Seidler-Feller said. “Meaning that on social issues, on abortion and so on, he follows the line, and he’s careful — meaning, he has limits.”
Seidler-Feller noted, however, that Etra is careful to keep a low profile on political matters. “He plays things close to the chest,” Seidler-Feller said. “He’s not out there.”