Personal life of Rahm Emanuel
Rahm Emanuel (Hebrew: ?? ???????) was born in Chicago, Illinois. His first name, Rahm, means “high” or “lofty” in Hebrew, while his last name, Emanuel, means “God is with us.” His father, the Jerusalem-born Benjamin M. Emanuel, is a pediatrician and former member of the Irgun (Irgun Zeva’i Le’ummi), a militant Zionist group treated as a terrorist organization during British rule. His mother, Martha Smulevitz, worked as an X-ray technician and was the daughter of a local union organizer. She became a civil rights activist; she was also once the owner of a Chicago-area rock and roll club. The two met in Chicago in the 1950s. Emanuel’s older brother, Ezekiel, is an oncologist and bioethicist, and his brother Ari is a talent agent in Los Angeles who inspired Jeremy Piven’s character Ari Gold on the HBO series Entourage. Emanuel himself is the inspiration for the character Josh Lyman on The West Wing. He also has a younger sister named Shoshanna, 14 years his junior.
When his family lived in Chicago, he attended Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, a Jewish day school. After his family moved to Wilmette, he attended public school: Romona School, Wilmette Junior High School, and New Trier West High School. He graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1981, and went on to receive a master’s degree in Speech and Communication from Northwestern University in 1985. While still an undergraduate, he joined the congressional campaign of David Robinson of Chicago.
His father, still practicing near Chicago, emigrated to the United States from Israel. Emanuel volunteered as a civilian volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces during the 1991 Gulf War, serving in one of Israel’s northern bases, rust-proofing brakes.
Emanuel’s wife Amy Rule, a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania converted to Modern Orthodox Judaism shortly before her wedding. They are members of Anshe Shalom, a modern Orthodox congregation in Chicago. They have three children, son Zacharias and daughters Ilana and Leah.
Emanuel is a long time close friend of fellow Chicagoan David Axelrod, Chief Strategist for the 2008 Barack Obama presidential campaign. Axelrod signed the ketubah at Emanuel’s wedding, an honor that goes to a best friend.
Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation, is quoted as saying: “It’s a very involved Jewish family”; “Amy was one of the teachers for a class for children during the High Holidays two years ago.” Emanuel has said of his Judaism: “I am proud of my heritage and treasure the values it has taught me.” Emanuel’s family lives on the North Side of Chicago, in the North Center neighborhood.
Emanuel trains for and participates in triathlons.