Brotherly Nudge

‘What did Mom put in the cereal?’ One Emanuel on his exceptional family.

March 28, 2013

His younger brother, Rahm, is the mayor of Chicago, a former White House chief of staff and the rumored inspiration for the “West Wing” character Josh Lyman. His youngest brother, Ari, is the Hollywood agent on whom “Entourage’s” Ari Gold was based.

Zeke Emanuel is the smart one. He chaired the Bioethics Department at the National Institutes of Health and was a member of President Obama’s health-care reform team. He has too many advanced degrees to list, most of them from Harvard. Now he’s the author of “Brothers Emanuel,” the story of the Chicago family that produced three remarkable adults.


What inspired you to add memoirist to your résumé?

People would come up to us and say, “What did Mom put in the cereal?”


I know “Brothers Emanuel” is a book-length answer to that question, but can you summarize?

My parents, they were certainly pushy, always making us do more. They were “nudges” [Yiddish for someone who badgers you], but they were not controlling. The idea of a tiger mom is completely foreign to what my mom did.

For example?

Taking the bus with Rahm, when I was 6 and he was 4, all alone. We explored the city, we were down on the beach for hours and hours and hours on end, with no cellphone, no contact, no nothing.


You’re speaking Thursday at a synagogue. How did being Jewish influence you and your brothers?

My parents and grandfather were very committed to [the Jewish tenet of] social justice. We were all raised with the idea that your job in the world is to make it better. Not just for family, but to give people the benefits and the privileges that we had.


You’re all famous for being … what’s a nice way to put it?

We’re pretty blunt, let’s put it that way. We say what’s on our mind. I don’t think anyone ever says, “Wow, I wonder what the Emanuels are thinking.”


You worked on health-care reform in the White House when your brother was there. Did you get special treatment?

Yeah, I got special treatment. He would scream at me more than anyone else.


Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, 600 I St. NW; Thu., 7 p.m., $12; 202-408-3100, (Gallery Place)


Beth Marlowe is a senior editor at Washington Post Express. She has written for The Washington Post, the Associated Press, Bloomberg Television and other publications.
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Beth Marlowe · March 28, 2013