Blog Posts Related to the American Jewish Community
- Posted byon May 30, 2013 at 8:48 AM EDT
Last week, the White House celebrated the eighth annual Jewish American Heritage Month. As President Obama declared in his proclamation honoring this month, “More than 350 years have passed since Jewish refugees first made landfall on American shores. We take this month to celebrate the progress that followed, and the bright future that lies ahead.”
Over 150 students, organization representatives, and leaders from the American Jewish community gathered in the White House to enjoy a staging of the “Gefilte Fish Chronicles: The Musical”, which was adapted to a musical production following its successful 2007 television premiere. “The Gefilte Fish Chronicles” speaks to the Jewish American experience and to the rich traditions and stories that American Jews have kept alive across the generations.
The audience also had the opportunity to hear from Senior Advisor to the President, Valerie Jarrett, who spoke about the President’s commitment to the American Jewish community and from Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was the driving force behind JAHM’s inception in 2006. We thank them for their participation in this unique event.
Zachary Kelly is Special Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff and works with the Office of Public Engagement on Jewish outreach.
- Posted byon April 30, 2013 at 1:44 PM EDT
A hundred years ago, a Chicago lawyer named Sigmund Livingston raised his voice and launched a movement. He declared his mission was “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” Today, we congratulate the Anti-Defamation League on its 100th anniversary.
We all know the quote that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But there’s a corollary: that arc bends faster when it is pushed, and the ADL has always pushed. The ADL was there at the height of World War II, defying hate groups and fighting against the brutal onslaught of anti-Semitism. The ADL was there in the 1950s, during Brown v. Board of Education, fighting for desegregation. And the ADL was there pushing for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Today, we are proud to work with the ADL on a wide range of issues, as we follow President Obama’s charge to work towards a country that is “more fair, more just, and more equal for every single child of God.”
With enormous support from ADL, the President signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. This act extends the coverage of the Federal hate crimes law to include attacks based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
President Obama upheld this country’s highest ideals by repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” As he put it, “we are not a nation that says, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ We are a nation that says, ‘Out of many, we are one.’”
Together with the ADL, we stand against bullying. In 2011, we held the first-ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, attended by the President and First Lady. The ADL has been out front in equipping families and educators in the fight against bullying, both in person and online.
Together with the ADL, we stand with the Dreamers who were brought into this country as children, many of whom found out as adults they weren’t citizens when they tried to apply for a job and for college.
In his ADL address in 1963, President Kennedy described citizenship to the United States as “a proud privilege.” He spoke of the millions of people who left other countries, other familiar scenes, to come here to build a new life and make a new opportunity for themselves and their children. In fifty years, that American dream has remained unchanged.
Together with the ADL, we stand with women and girls. Just a couple of months ago, President Obama signed a bill that both strengthened and reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Thanks to this bipartisan agreement, thousands of women, men, girls and boys across the country who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking will be able to access the resources they need to help heal from their trauma.
Together with the ADL, we stand against hate. President Obama made clear during his recent trip to Israel that anti-Semitism has no place in this world. He heeded the words of Dr. King, that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” That’s why we must defend justice so vigorously. That’s why we cannot tolerate anti-Semitism or any hate, at home or abroad.
President Obama said, “Not in the classrooms of children. Not in the corridors of power. And let us never forget the link between the two. For our sons and daughters are not born to hate, they are taught to hate. So let us fill their young hearts with the same understanding, the same compassion we hope others have for them.”
And together, we congratulate the ADL on their anniversary, and look forward to working with the ADL toward the day when our world is free from hate.
Valerie B. Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama. She oversees the Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs and chairs the White House Council on Women and Girls.
- Posted byon March 25, 2013 at 4:25 PM EDT
During this festival of freedom, Jews gather around the Seder table to engage in one of the oldest traditions in the Jewish faith. One of the highlights of the Passover holiday is, of course, the food. On Passover, food assumes a special role: it not only nourishes; it educates. As families gather around the Seder table, much of the night’s discussion revolves around the Seder plate. The Seder plate, or the ke’ara, holds six traditional items: the marror, lettuce, shank bone, egg, charoset, and the vegetable. These foods have played a central role in the Passover Seder throughout generations, allowing Jews today to connect with their forbearers from thousands of years ago.
As President Obama said in his Passover statement this year:
"Passover is a celebration of the freedom our ancestors dreamed of, fought for, and ultimately won. But even as we give thanks, we are called to look to the future. We are reminded that responsibility does not end when we reach the promised land, it only begins. As my family and I prepare to once again take part in this ancient and powerful tradition, I am hopeful that we can draw upon the best in ourselves to find the promise in the days that lie ahead, meet the challenges that will come, and continue the hard work of repairing the world. Chag sameach." --President Obama
As in previous years, we have compiled recipes for Passover from members of the White House staff. These dishes, like the foods displayed on the Seder plate, inspire those who enjoy them to remember their own family histories. Whether eliciting warm memories from childhood or a grandparent’s experience in a foreign land, or serving as an expression of a unique ethnic or cultural background, these foods bring further meaning and power to this special holiday. Chag Sameach.
- Posted byon March 25, 2013 at 3:35 PM EDT
This week, President Obama completed his historic trip to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. During the trip he reiterated the unbreakable bonds between the United States and Israel and America’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security as well as the importance of security, peace and prosperity for all in the region.
President Obama also touched upon the upcoming Passover holiday, the powerful symbols that it represents, and the inspiration it provides to him and to all people seeking a more just and peaceful future.
- Posted byon March 8, 2013 at 5:35 PM EDT
This week, Vice President Biden spoke at the AIPAC Policy Conference here in DC.
He emphasized the Administration's deep commitment to Israel and its security, noting that no President has done as much to physically secure the State of Israel as President Obama. "He has directed close coordination, strategically and operationally, between our government and our Israeli partners, including our political, military and intelligence leadership," the Vice President said.
Vice President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, after the Vice President spoke at the AIPAC conference, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, Mar. 4, 2013 (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
Vice President Biden also talked about the peace process:
"We are under no illusions about how difficult it will be to achieve. Even some of you in the audience said, why do we even talk about it anymore? Well, it's going to require hard steps on both sides. But it's in all of our interests -- Israel's interest, the United States' interest, the interest of the Palestinian people. We all have a profound interest in peace."
There were some laughs, too. On the subject of President Obama's upcoming trip to the region right before Passover, the Vice President noted: "I have to admit I’m a little jealous that he gets to be the one to say 'this year in Jerusalem,' but I’m the Vice President. I’m not the President. So I -- when I told him that, I’m not sure he thought I was serious or not."
- Posted byon February 22, 2013 at 5:12 PM EDT
The White House Office of Public Engagement sends its best wishes to all those celebrating Purim on Sunday. On this holiday, we read the words of the Megillah, which tells of the miraculous salvation of the Jewish people. We recall the courage of Queen Esther and her cousin Mordechai, whose bold actions reversed an evil plot, transforming a day of impending sorrow into a day of happiness. From these heroic individuals, we learn the qualities of leadership, and what it means to sacrifice for a cause larger than oneself.
President Obama echoed this very message in his recent remarks at the presentation of the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medals:
“We’ve all got busy lives. We’ve got bills to pay. We’ve got kids to carpool, errands to get done. And in the midst of all the running around, it would be easy -- and even understandable -- for folks to just focus on themselves, to worry about our own lives, to look down the street and see a neighbor in need and say, ‘I’d like to help but I’ve got problems of my own.’ To look across town at a community that’s in despair and say, ‘That’s just too big a challenge for us to be able to take on.’
That’s not who we are. That’s not what we do. That’s not what built this country. In this country, we look out for one another. We get each other’s backs, especially in times of hardship or challenge.”
We continue to hold those same values to look out for our neighbors, and to work together, collectively, for a better future. On Purim, Jewish people reaffirm their commitment to their faith, heritage, and their communities. By rejoicing with family and friends and by sharing with the less fortunate among us, we keep enduring traditions and values alive. Let us reflect on the central lesson of Purim by looking beyond ourselves, so that we too can turn the trials of our communities into sources of light and joy for all. Chag Purim Sameach.
Zachary Kelly handles Jewish Outreach for the Office of Public Engagement
- Posted byon December 14, 2012 at 10:52 AM EDT
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on Thursday welcomed friends and leaders from the Jewish community to celebrate the sixth night of Hanukkah. In his remarks, the President remembered the enduring story of resilience and optimism that is the essence of this holiday:
Over 2,000 years ago, a tyrant forbade the Israelites from practicing their religion and his forces desecrated the Holy Temple. So Judah Maccabee gathered a small band of believers to fight this oppression, and against all odds, they prevailed. And the Maccabees liberated Jerusalem and restored the faith of its people. And when they went to reclaim the Temple, the people of Jerusalem received another gift from God -- the oil that should have lasted only one night burned for eight. That miraculous flame brought hope and it sustained the faithful.
To this day, Jews around the world honor the Maccabees' everlasting hope that light will overcome the darkness, that goodness will overcome evil, and that faith can accomplish miracles.The celebration this year was a tribute to more recent examples of resilience and optimism as well. The 90-year-old menorah used in the ceremony came from the Temple Israel synagogue in Long Beach, New York, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. It served as a symbol of perseverance, and as a reminder of those who are still recovering from Sandy’s destruction.
This was not the first year that Rabbi Larry Bazer, the Joint Forces Chaplain for the Massachusetts National Guard, was asked to light the candles at the White House Hanukkah celebration. Last year, Rabbi Bazer was unable to attend because he was four months into his deployment in Afghanistan, and he spent every night of Hanukkah with a different group of soldiers. As President Obama noted, "he had a pretty good excuse" for turning down that invitation.
Update: Learn more about the 2012 White House Menorah in this video:
- Posted byon September 25, 2012 at 1:50 PM EDT
As we head into the most solemn day of the Jewish Calendar, I wanted to call your attention to the President's speech this morning to the United Nations General Assembly. The speech covered several topics, including freedom of speech and human rights. Of particular note, is the language the President used to again repudiate the idea of a nuclear armed Iran. An excerpt of that section of the speech is below:
“America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe that there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited. We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace. And make no mistake, a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty. That’s why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And that’s why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
To read the President's full remarks, click here.
Wishing you and your families a meaningful fast. May you all be inscribed in the book of life. L'Shana Tova.
Jarrod Bernstein is the Director of Jewish Outreach in the Office of Public Engagement