Blog Posts Related to the American Jewish Community

  • National Security Advisor Susan Rice Visits Israel and the West Bank, and Joins the Embassy of Israel to Celebrate Israel Independence Day

    Ambassador Susan Rice recently took her first trip to Israel since becoming the National Security Advisor. There, she met with senior Israeli officials, including President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, National Security Advisor Yossi Cohen, and participated in the U.S.-Israel Consultative Group meeting, to discuss the close security cooperation between our two countries. Ambassador Rice also visited Palmachim Air Force Base, where she spoke of the common bonds linking the United States and Israel:

    Our two nations are forever bound by our shared history and our shared values, and every American dollar spent on Israel's security is an investment in protecting the many interests that our nations share—whether that's preventing rockets from terrorizing the Israeli people, defending against the growing ballistic missile threat in the region, or advancing our commitment to defend freedom and democracy.

    National Security Advisor Susan Rice in Israel

    (photo via U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv)

    Her full remarks at Palmachim Air Force Base can be found here.

    Ambassador Rice also met with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah during her visit. As she did in her meetings with Israeli officials, she emphasized the importance of each side managing the current situation in a way that reduces tensions and preserves space to pursue a two-state solution when both parties are prepared to take the decisions necessary to resume substantive negotiations. While we have come to a pause in the parties' talks, the United States believes the only way to achieve lasting peace is through direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that lead to two viable, independent states living side-by-side in peace and security.

    National Security Advisor Susan Rice in Israel

    (photo via U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv)

    Upon returning to Washington, Ambassador Rice delivered remarks at the annual Israel Independence Day Celebration hosted by the Embassy of Israel at the Mellon Auditorium. Her full remarks as prepared, marking the State of Israel's 66th birthday, follow:

    Good evening everyone—erev tov—and happy Independence Day. This year, I've been fortunate to mark Yom Ha'atzmaut both here and in Israel, on my first trip there as President Obama's national security advisor.

    I want to thank Ambassador Dermer for inviting me to join the party today. Ron and I have spent many hours together recently. I made Ron—I think this is the right verb—schlep to Israel for my trip last week. Along with many of the most senior officials from both our countries, we had busy days of close and productive consultations.

    My most important meeting, once again, was with Prime Minister Netanyahu. In my previous job, we worked side-by-side in the muddy trenches of New York over the deeply flawed Goldstone Report and many other fights to protect Israel's legitimacy in UN forum after UN forum. On this, my most recent trip, I was proud to reaffirm and deepen the unprecedented security cooperation between our countries, and the prime minister and I had a very constructive conversation on a range of important issues.

    I was also pleased, once again, to spend time with my Israeli counterpart, National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen— as well as with one of Israel's national treasures and one of the world's global treasures, President Shimon Peres. I know President Obama is looking forward to welcoming him back to the White House next month for the umpteenth time since his first visit to the White House under President Kennedy. To both your prime minister and your president, on behalf of the United States, I reiterated President Obama's personal and unwavering commitment to Israel's peace and security.

    It was an excellent visit—and just the latest in a series of memorable visits to Israel. In particular, I was privileged to join President Obama, then still Senator Obama, on his visit to Israel in 2008—and I still remember the look of grim determination on his face when we saw the countless stacks of rockets that Hamas terrorists had fired from Gaza on the civilians of Sderot.

    But the trip I remember most vividly, the one that forever sealed my affection for Israel, was my very first visit—back when I was 14 years old. My late father sat on the board of TWA – some of you will remember such airlines only from the "Mad Men" era. So, my Dad was able to take me and my younger brother on one of the first-ever flights from Cairo to Tel Aviv just after the Camp David accords. To this day, I remember walking the Old City, visiting the original Yad Vashem, hiking the stony path up Masada, bobbing in the Dead Sea, and learning by heart the Sh'ma, which speaks of God's oneness.

    Like so many Americans, I have long felt the power of the enduring bonds between the United States and Israel. So at this reception to celebrate Israel's independence, I want to share a simple message: The United States will always be there for Israel. We will be there in those moments of silent sorrow. We will be there in the noisy bustle of normal daily life in the Jewish state. We will be there as friends and partners. And we will be there for Israel as supporters of peace, as champions of its legitimacy, and as defenders of your security.

    I was particularly moved by President Peres's Independence Day message to the Israeli people this year. Thinking back to 1948 and the newborn state, he said, "I have to admit that our dream was too small when I see the reality that was born out of it." To not just build a state after the horror of the Holocaust, to not just become a free people in an independent and democratic state in the historic homeland of the Jewish people, but to actually exceed even their own dreams—it's a stirring testament to the faith and determination of the Israeli people, passed on l'dor va'dor, from generation to generation.

    So, we will stay true to the cause of Israel's security. On Friday, I visited Palmachim Air Force Base and saw brave Israeli men and women, working alongside U.S. officers, using cutting-edge U.S. technology to ensure that Israel's air defenses remain unsurpassed. I got an up-close look at the tremendous Iron Dome and Arrow systems that have saved countless Israeli lives, with a U.S. investment that now totals nearly $900 million.

    That commitment to Israeli and U.S. security also means, as we discussed again last week, that Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. As President Obama said in Jerusalem, "America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran." As the United States and our P5+1 partners engage in negotiations with Iran on a long-term, comprehensive agreement that resolves the world's longstanding concerns about Iran's nuclear program, we all have a responsibility to give diplomacy a chance to succeed. But America won't be satisfied by mere words. We will only be satisfied by verifiable action from Iran. Put simply: if we are not, there will be no deal. And, as these negotiations progress, we continue to consult closely with Israel every step of the way.

    We will also stay true to the cause of peace — to working to end the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Even though we have reached a pause in the negotiations, we continue to encourage the parties to work and act toward a future of peace. It's worthwhile to recall the words of one the great civil rights leaders, Dr. Dorothy Height, who once said, "If the times aren't ripe, you have to ripen the times." So the United States will continue to do our part to help bring about the peaceful, hopeful future that both Israeli and Palestinian children deserve. Because, ultimately, the only path forward out of this tragic conflict is a secure, democratic, Jewish state living side-by-side in peace and security with a viable, independent Palestinian state.

    That's our commitment—and it's the mighty oak that grew from the seed planted by President Truman on May 14, 1948, when he recognized the State of Israel, at 6:11 p.m. in Washington—just 11 minutes after David Ben-Gurion declared Israel's independence at midnight in Tel Aviv. The United States was the first country to recognize Israel, and we are still honored to count ourselves as first among Israel's friends. America's commitment to the peace and security of Israel has spanned generations. It spans political parties. And it is not and never will be negotiable.

    Together, we reaffirm, in the words of Israel's Declaration of Independence, the "right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State"—a state "based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel." And together, I hope that, decades from now, when we examine our efforts to forge a future of peace and security among Israel and its neighbors, we too will be able to look back at all that has been accomplished and say, with deep satisfaction, "our dream was too small."

    Thank you so much.

    National Security Advisor Susan Rice in Israel

    (photo via U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv)

    Matt Nosanchuk is Director of Outreach on the National Security Council

  • White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough Addresses the American Jewish Committee

    On Tuesday, May 13, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough spoke at the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Global Forum. The AJC Global Forum is an annual event that brings a diverse group of Jews together from around the world to advocate for shared values.

    His remarks highlighted the President’s priorities on the domestic front, focusing on immigration and the economy, and on foreign policy, reiterating the Administration’s unshakeable commitment to the State of Israel and to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

    His full remarks – as prepared for delivery – are below:

    Minister Kasoulides, Minister Steinitz, distinguished guests, it’s an honor to represent the Obama Administration at the AJC Global Forum. I especially want to thank your President, Stan Bergman, and your longtime executive director, David Harris, for their leadership, and for inviting me here tonight.   

    Of course, I’m an obvious choice to join you this evening.  After all, May is Jewish Heritage month, and who better to reflect on Jewish heritage than a guy named Denis McDonough? 

    But the truth is, so much of the heritage we celebrate this month is shared.  My grandparents came to this country in search of a better life.    But this country, more than anyplace else, held out a promise of opportunity: that here, universal human rights would be protected, and that no matter who you were or where you came from, you could make it if you tried. 

    For more than a century, the American Jewish Committee has helped our country keep alive that promise of opportunity for all.  You’ve stood up for our shared values around the world.  You’ve honored the American tradition of perfecting our union with hard work and sacrifice, and the Jewish tradition that teaches that while we are not obligated to finish that work, neither are we free to desist from it.

    These ideas of shared responsibility, of obligations that are bigger than ourselves, are what motivate President Obama every day.  Under his leadership, and thanks to the determination of the American people, an economy that lost about nine million jobs has now created 9.2 million private sector jobs.  More families know the economic security of health care.  Troops who were fighting two wars are coming home.

    But we also recognize that our work is far from finished.  That’s why President Obama has laid out an opportunity agenda to keep America’s founding promise alive for future generations.  He’s fighting to create more good jobs with good wages, and a world-class education for the next generation.  He’s fighting for equal pay for women, and a fair minimum wage for our workers.

    And as the American Jewish Committee knows well, President Obama is fighting to fix a broken immigration system.  I want to spend some time on this, beginning by thanking you – because for years, you have been a key partner in this effort.  You have argued, loudly and forcefully, that our current immigration system is unfair to businesses, workers, and families alike.  You’ve helped bring a moral dimension to this debate, one rooted in the biblical edict, “You shall not oppress a stranger, having been a stranger in the land of Egypt.”  And last year, thanks in no small part to your hard work, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came together and passed a bipartisan, common-sense immigration bill. 

    The question now is whether House Republicans will live up to that example.  It’s clear what the right choice is, not just morally, but economically.  A report by the Congressional Budget Office found that passing the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill will grow our economy by more than 3 percent in one decade, and more than 5 percent in two decades.  That means we could be looking at an extra $700 billion in our economy by 2023, and $1.4 trillion in 2033.  And it will shrink our deficits by more than $150 billion over the next 10 years, and about $700 billion in the decade after that.

    But as we’ve seen before, in today’s Washington, just because something makes sense doesn’t mean it will get done.  So in addition to thanking you for helping us get to this point, I want to urge you keep making your voices heard.  Make sure our lawmakers know what’s at stake.  Ask them to put aside politics and do what is right. 

    President Obama believes there is still time to make reform a reality.  Just today, he invited law enforcement officials from across our country who know how important this is to come to the White House.  So I promise you that as you continue your efforts to fix our broken immigration system, your president will be with you every step of the way.   Because he believes that ultimately, this issue is about much more than politics – it’s about our responsibility to keep alive the basic values we share. 

    Of course, even as he works to make real our country’s promise of opportunity for all, President Obama recognizes that our responsibilities don’t end at home – and those other responsibilities are what I would like to close with today.  Part of what makes America great is that we stand by the countries that share our values around the world.  That’s why throughout its history, the State of Israel has had no greater friend than the United States of America. 

    The United States is proud to be the first country to recognize the existence of a Jewish State – just 11 minutes after Israel’s independence was declared.   Today, we celebrate a diverse, democratic ally, a “start-up nation” where entrepreneurship thrives.   The unbreakable bonds between our two countries are as strong as ever.

    And as President Obama put it last year at the United Nations General Assembly, “the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state.”  Time and time again, he has stated his firm conviction that Israel has a right to defend itself, and to maintain its qualitative military edge.

    Over the last five and a half years, President Obama has backed up those words with action.  Today, the cooperation between our militaries and intelligence services has never been stronger.   At this very moment, there are Israeli children sleeping more soundly because of the Iron Dome defense system that America invested in. 

    And with so much tumult across the region—including Egypt and Syria—we are consulting closely with our Israeli partners every step of the way, as we saw again in Susan Rice’s visit to Israel last week.  Susan led the U.S. delegation of the U.S.-Israel Consultative Group, a dialogue launched several years ago.  The ICG, as we call it, is a first of its kind, a spot where we consult on our shared threats, including from Iran, with Israel.  It has been led by the President’s National Security Advisors, Tom Donilon and now Susan.  This intensive and candid discussion reflects the unprecedented level of cooperation between our two countries, and President Obama’s commitment to Israel’s security. 

    And along with many other important pieces of business she conducted in Israel last week, Susan reaffirmed the President’s clear policy: the United States is committed to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  Over the last few years, we have rallied the world behind unprecedented sanctions that have helped to bring Iran to the negotiating table.  Today—for the first time in a decade— progress on Iran’s nuclear program has been halted and key parts have been rolled back.   The IAEA has confirmed that Iran is meeting its commitments under the joint plan of action.  

    Today we started another round of tough negotiations among the Iranians on one side and basically the rest of the world on the other.  We are engaged in serious, substantive negotiations aimed at reaching a comprehensive solution that addresses the world's concerns with Iran’s nuclear program.  There’s no doubt that significant gaps remain and it is far from certain that we can reach a final agreement that sufficiently addresses our concerns.  But this is a chance to resolve this issue diplomatically, peacefully.  And throughout these focused negotiations, our bottom line has not changed and will not change.  A nuclear-armed Iran would be a grave danger to the United States, to Israel, and to the world, and we are committed to doing what we must to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.     

    Even as we pursue a resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue, we remain focused – every single day – on countering Iran’s support for terrorism, and its destabilizing efforts in the region.  That includes our unprecedented support for Israel’s security, as well as the security of our Gulf Partners.  That includes our efforts to strengthen the Syrian opposition, and to apply pressure on the Assad regime. And that includes steady and coordinated efforts to expose Iranian support for terrorism; to stop the flow of weapons to terrorist groups like Hizbollah and Hamas; and to maintain our robust sanctions on Hizbollah and Iranian sponsorship of terrorist activity.

    Moreover, as President Obama said in Jerusalem last year: “Those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist … might as well reject the earth beneath them or the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere.”  And with the question of Israel’s existence off the table, there is another question we must ask ourselves: What will Israel’s future hold?

    It was America’s commitment to Israel’s future—our abiding belief that Israelis and Palestinians deserve a future of peace and security—that guided our efforts over the past year.  Early in those talks, Secretary of State Kerry came here, to the AJC Global Forum, because your organization understands that peace and security are inextricably linked.  In the end, the interests of a Jewish State of Israel require two nations that can live in peace.  In the face of an unsustainable status quo, a two-state solution is not just desirable – it is necessary, for both sides.

    Today, we are profoundly grateful to Secretary Kerry, and to organizations like AJC, for the extraordinary efforts made over the past year.  No nation has done more to stand with the parties—Israelis and Palestinians—in their search for peace than the United States of America.  No nation.  And though talks may be suspended, President Obama has been very clear—the United States will never waver in our commitment to a just and lasting peace.  Both Israelis and Palestinians face hard choices.  Both must make difficult decisions.  And only Israelis and Palestinians can make the compromises that are necessary for two states to live side-by-side in peace and security.

    But just because peace is difficult doesn’t mean we can stop trying.  As President Obama reminds me often, “Hard things are hard.”  Fixing a broken immigration system is hard.  Bringing an end to a decades-old conflict in the Middle East is hard.  But our history, our heritage, teaches us that hard things are possible.  And with your help, I believe that we can leave behind for our children a country that keeps alive its founding promise of opportunity for all, and a world filled with prosperity and peace. 

    Thank you very much.

    Matt Nosanchuk is Director of Outreach on the National Security Council.

  • President Obama Speaks at the University of Southern California's Shoah Foundation

    On May 7, 2014, President Obama traveled to Los Angeles, California to speak at the USC Shoah Foundation 20th anniversary dinner. After making Schindler’s List, Shoah Foundation Founder Steven Spielberg was inspired to create the Foundation in order to preserve the memories of tens of thousands of survivors of the Holocaust and other mass atrocities through video eyewitness testimony. He introduced the President and presented him with the Foundation’s Ambassador for Humanity Award.

    Watch the video.

    In his remarks, which can be seen here, the President honored the many survivors of the Holocaust and other mass atrocities who were in attendance:

    Every day that you have lived, every child and grandchild that your families have brought into this world has served as the ultimate rebuke to evil, and the ultimate expression of love and hope.

    He also noted the administration’s commitment to supporting Holocaust survivors in need living in the United States, including the appointment of a Special Envoy for U.S. Holocaust Survivor Services and the $5MM Holocaust Survivor Assistance Fund proposed in the FY15 HHS Budget.

    The President called upon all of us to stand up to anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry and hatred wherever they exist, declaring that "silence is evil’s greatest co-conspirator."  And he recognized that memory imposes a "sacred duty":

    The voices of those recorded and unrecorded, those who survived and those who perished, call upon us -- implore us and challenge us -- to turn ‘Never Forget’ into ‘Never Again.'

    Read the President's full remarks here.

    Matt Nosanchuk is Director of Outreach, National Security Council

  • This Year in the White House: Passover!

    This year, as they have every Passover since coming to the White House, President and Mrs. Obama hosted the annual White House Seder. The tradition dates back to 2008, when the President celebrated Passover with staffers and friends on the campaign trail.  After his election the President fulfilled his promise to host the Seder “next year in the White House” if he was elected. This year’s Seder incorporated traditional elements and foods of the Seder, including the Gefilte Fish Matzo Ball Soup, the Hillel Sandwich, and “Dayenu.” 

    President Obama and the First Lady Host a Passover Seder Dinner

    President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a Passover Seder dinner in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, April 15, 2014. (Official White House Photo)

    There were several new elements as well. Two chefs who specialize in Jewish cookingSusan Barocas and Vered Guttmanassisted White House Chef Cris Comerford with the meal and brought new additions to the menu, including a salad of quinoa cooked in coconut milk with Tuscan kale and roasted yams, and chicken with green olives. Underscoring how the Exodus, one of humanity’s great liberation stories, resonates so strongly in the American experience, guests also read the Emancipation Proclamation.

    Vered, who writes the “Modern Manna” blog for the English edition of Ha’aretz, wrote about what it was like to be a guest chef for the seder here.

    The full menu for this year, prepared by White House Chef Cris Comerford, White House Pastry Chef Bill Yosses, Susan Barocas and Vered Guttman, included:

    • Gefilte fish
    • Haroset
    • Chicken soup with matzoh balls
    • Salad of quinoa cooked in coconut milk with Tuscan kale and roasted yams
    • Wilted spinach 
    • Carrot soufflé
    • Passover Noodle kugel
    • Roasted potatoes with garlic and onion
    • Roasted sweet potatoes
    • Seared aalmon with roasted artichokes
    • Chicken with preserved lemons and green olives
    • Braised beef brisket
    • Raspberry ganache marjolaine
    • Passover brownies
    • Passover mandel bread

    Matt Nosanchuk is the Director for Outreach on the National Security Council.

  • Passover Haroset Recipes

    Haroset, symbolic of the mortar the Jewish slaves of ancient Egypt used to build the Pharaoh’s cities and store-houses, is probably one of the favorite foods of Passover with recipes passed down in families from generation to generation.

    Since most American Jews come from Ashkenazic backgrounds, they enjoy a version of haroset using just apples and walnuts, explains Susan Barocas, founder of the Jewish Food Experience, a program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. At the end of a long winter, apples likely would have been the only fruit left in cold cellars in Central and Eastern Europe.

    But the truth is that recipes for haroset are as varied and unique as the families that celebrate, with the ingredients reflecting the ingredients and flavors available in the all the many lands where Jews have lived. Figs, apricots, dates and oranges are popular in different haroset along with a variety of nuts and spices such as ginger and allspice.

    In the end, haroset-making is deliciously imprecise. Nearly everything can be—and is—adjusted to personal taste. Making haroset by hand with a knife or in a chopping bowl is laborious, but it provides a wonderful opportunity to involve children and others in holiday preparations. But not to be discounted—the food processor makes it easy to prepare more than one kind of haroset to enjoy as part of your Passover, celebrating all the many journeys of Jews around the world through the many generations.

    Here are three haroset recipes from Susan. Feel free to add the word “about” in front of any of the measurements!

    TRADITIONAL ASHKENAZIC HAROSET

    The apple-to-nut ratio, as well as what kind of apples to use, are up to the haroset maker. This version of this Passover classic has more of those ingredients and less sugar than other recipes. Even the consistency varies widely. Some people like it ground to a fine paste; others leave it chunky. It’s up to individual taste.

    • 1 cup walnuts
    • 3 apples, unpeeled, cored and cut into about 8 pieces
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or to taste
    • 1 tablespoon sugar or to taste
    • 2 to 3 tablespoons grape juice or sweet Passover wine

    Put the walnuts in the chopping bowl if doing by hand or a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Roughly chop into large dice or pulse just a few times in the processor, being careful not over-process. Add the apple pieces and chop or pulse to desired consistency. Add rest of ingredients and stir well to blend. Makes about 2 cups.

    MOROCCAN HAROSET BALLS

    A typical Moroccan haroset recipe contains dried fruits and spices ground to a paste-like consistency. Traditionally, Moroccan-Jewish families roll the haroset into small balls that are delicious eaten alone or squished between two pieces of matzah. They also make a delicious snack or part of a Passover breakfast.

    • 3/4 cup walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts
    • 1 1/2 cups pitted dates
    • 1/2 cup dried apricots
    • 2 or 3 dried figs
    • 1 cup raisins (dark, golden or any combination)
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1 or 2 pinches allspice
    • 1 to 2 tablespoons sweet red wine or grape juice
    • Finely ground walnuts or almonds (optional)

    Using a food processor, pulse to coarsely chop the nuts, then add all the rest of the ingredients except the wine and finely ground nuts. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped and well blended, adding just enough wine as you are pulsing to make the mixture stick together. Too much and it will be too sticky. As you pulse it, the mixture will form a large ball. Now you are ready to roll. Very slightly dampen hands with cold water. Gently roll the mixture into balls about ¾ inches in diameter or your desired size. Place the balls on a tray or baking sheet covered in wax paper and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours. Serve or store in a covered container. Or you can roll each ball in finely ground nuts, which will keep them from sticking together so they can be stored immediately in a covered container. These treats will keep for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator, but rarely last that long. Makes about 24 balls.

    PERSIAN HAROSET

    Presenting this haroset shaped into a pyramid is traditional among the Jews of Persia. This recipe reflects the many fruits and spices of ancient Persia, known since 1935 as Iran. Jews have lived in Persia for over 2,500 years and developed a delicious, healthy cuisine alongside the larger Persian community. Any Persian haroset recipe almost always includes tropical fruits that grow in the country. A wide variety of nuts is used throughout Persian cooking, as reflected in the four types used here. Unlike the very sweet Ashkenazi haroset, this recipe adds a taste of cider vinegar, very typical of the savory-sweet combination found in Persian cooking.

    • 3/4 cup walnuts
    • 3/4 cup raw and unsalted almonds
    • 3/4 cup raw hazelnuts
    • 3/4 cup raw and unsalted pistachio nuts
    • 2 unpeeled pears, cored and cut into chunks
    • 1 unpeeled apple, cored and cut into chunks
    • 1 cup dates, pitted
    • 2 small oranges or 1 large, peeled, pitted, sectioned and finely chopped with juice
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger root
    • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
    • Sweet Passover wine or grape juice

    Pulse nuts in food processor until finely chopped. Put into a large bowl. Chop the fruits, except the orange, by pulsing also, being careful not to chop the mixture into a paste. Add all the fruit, including the orange already chopped by hand and its juice, to nuts and stir to blend well. Add cinnamon, ginger root, cider vinegar and just enough wine to bind. Mix very well. Place haroset mixture on a square platter and shape into a pyramid using your hands. A flat spatula can be used to smooth the “walls.” Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours to let the flavors blend.

    Matt Nosanchuk is the White House Liaison to the American Jewish community.

  • Let’s Make Some Noise—It’s Purim!

    Tomorrow evening, Jews in America, Israel and around the globe will celebrate Purim, a holiday known for costumes, carnivals and noisemakers. Even rabbis and synagogue presidents dress up for a playful re-telling of the holiday story during Purim spoofs called spiels. With all the fun of the holiday, it’s also important to remember Purim’s more serious underlying themes of persecution and survival in the face of the planned genocide of ancient Persia’s Jews. Based on events over 2,000 years ago, these themes resonate throughout the centuries and in today’s world as well. By speaking up and speaking out, justice will triumph over evil.

  • President Obama, Secretary Kerry and Secretary Lew Underscore and Reaffirm the Strength of the U.S.-Israel Relationship

    We do not have a closer friend or ally than Israel and the bond between our two countries and our two peoples is unbreakable.”—President Barack Obama, March 3, 2014, Bilateral Meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    The beginning of March provided several important opportunities for President Obama and senior administration officials to underscore that unshakeable bond between the United States and Israel. As they do every year, thousands of delegates to the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2014 Policy Conference came to Washington for an annual event that attracts bipartisan support.  Prime Minister Netanyahu’s appearance at AIPAC provided an opportunity for a meeting with President Obama at the White House. The two leaders discussed the status of the talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, progress on the P5+1 negotiations with Iran regarding Iran’s nuclear program, and regional issues, including the situations in Syria and Egypt.  As the President noted in his public remarks at the beginning of the meeting, “on a whole spectrum of issues we consult closely; we have the kind of military, intelligence and security cooperation that is unprecedented. And there is a strong bipartisan commitment in this country to make sure that Israel’s security is preserved in any contingency.”

    Watch the video of the opening remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu at the beginning of their bilateral meeting below:

    To read a transcript of the remarks, click here.

    Secretary Kerry’s Speech to AIPAC

    On Monday, March 3, Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the AIPAC 2014 Policy Conference about the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

    On Iran, Secretary Kerry reaffirmed the Obama Administration’s bottom-line in the negotiations: “let me sum up President Obama’s policy in 10 simple, clear words, unequivocal: We will not permit Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.”  While the United States seeks to achieve this goal through diplomacy, Secretary Kerry reiterated that “no deal is better than a bad deal” and emphasized the following: 

    "[T]he United States will only sign an agreement that answers three critical questions the right way. First, will it make certain that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon? Second, can it continuously assure the world that Iran’s program remains entirely peaceful as it claims? And third, will the agreement increase our visibility on the nuclear program and expand the breakout time so that if they were to try to go for a bomb, we know we will have time to act?"

    Turning to his tireless efforts to support the direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to end the decades-old conflict, Secretary Kerry described how he is working hard to help the parties reach a two-state solution that brings Israelis the security and peace they deserve and the Palestinians the freedom and dignity they deserve:

    "My friends, we understand that Israel has to be strong in order to make peace. But we also understand that peace will make Israel stronger. Any peace agreement must also guarantee Israel’s identity as a Jewish homeland. As [former Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Barak said on this stage last year, a two-state solution is the only way for Israel to stay true to its founding principles – to remain both Jewish and democratic."

    To read the full transcript of Secretary Kerry’s remarks, click here

    Secretary Lew’s Address at AIPAC

    Secretary Lew Delivers Remarks at AIPAC

    March 2, 2014. (by Photo Courtesy of Matt Nosanchuk)

    Treasury Secretary  Lew emphasized that the U.S.-Israel relationship, which is "rooted in our shared story of people yearning to be masters of their own destiny, is as vibrant as ever.”  Since the Department of the Treasury has the responsibility for administering and enforcing the existing sanctions against the Iranian regime, Secretary Lew described the administration’s vigorous enforcement of existing sanctions and emphasized that notwithstanding the limited relief that has been provided under the Joint Plan of Action, Iran is not “open for business”:

    "Even as we pursue diplomacy, and even as we deliver on our commitments to provide limited sanctions relief, the vast majority of our sanctions remain firmly in place. Right now, these sanctions are imposing the kind of intense economic pressure that continues to provide a powerful incentive for Iran to negotiate. And we have sent the very clear signal to the leadership in Tehran that if these talks do not succeed, then we are prepared to impose additional sanctions on Iran and that all options remain on the table to block Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

    To read the full transcript of Secretary Lew’s speech, click here.

     Matt Nosanchuk is an Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement.

  • Mobilizing for a Healthier Future: Participate in the Jewish Community Day of Action for Health Care Coverage on February 18th

    Preexisting Condition Graphic

    The number 18 is a powerful number in Jewish heritage. It represents “chai,” meaning life. Today, taking care of ourselves and others so that we all live love and healthy lives is more important than ever. The Jewish community has always placed a high importance on mental, spiritual, and physical health. Whether it’s your mother’s matzoball soup when you’re sick or helping someone from your temple get the care they need, maintaining good health for a long life is a core Jewish value. 

    In order to ensure that every person, regardless of gender or age or preexisting condition, has access to our nation’s healthcare system, we are getting the word out on how Americans and their families can access health affordable, quality health insurance between now and March 31 in the federal and state health insurance Marketplaces. Since October 1, more than 3 million people have enrolled in a private insurance program through the Marketplaces, and over 6.3 million have enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP through state agencies or state-based marketplaces. It’s impossible to know when illness could strike, and it’s crucial that every American have some form of health insurance. That’s why we’re making a big push to educate about enrolling in the healthcare exchanges for everyone we know.

    On February 18th, in partnership with the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), we’re calling on congregations, Jewish advocacy and social service organizations, and anyone in the Jewish community who is interest to participate in the Jewish Community Day of Action for Health Care Coverage. Here are 18 ways that you or the organizations you belong to or work with can participate in the Day of Action, which is all about ensuring a healthy future for Americans and their families, including in the American Jewish community. We hope you will join us!

    18 Ways to Participate in February 18th Day of Action

    1. Post on Facebook to remind your friends of key dates and facts about enrolling in the health insurance marketplace. Visit www.facebook.com/healthcare.gov for ideas.
    2. Write an article for your organization newsletter or member bulletin.
    3. Put up posters around your community that provides information about how, why, and by when to get covered in the marketplace.
    4. Talk to a young person in your life about the benefits of health insurance. Tell them how 5 in 10 young adults could pay $50 or less per month for coverage, less than most cell phone bills!
    5. Post on Twitter using the hashtag, #GetCovered and let people know they can access the marketplace (1) online at  www.healthcare.gov; (2) by phone at 1-800-318-2596, (3) in person at www.localhelp.healthcare.gov, (4) or by mail at http://1.usa.gov/1bcLknf.
    6. Host a Shabbat dinner or house party, and talk about why getting covered is important to you. 
      Young Adult Health Plan Cost

    7. Send an email to a local list serve as a friendly reminder that the enrollment deadline is coming up on March 31, about the financial assistance available to many who enroll, and why you care that people on the list have the information they need to access quality, affordable coverage.
    8. Publish an ad in your local newspaper about key benefits of coverage in the marketplace.
    9. Plan a text study that explores Jewish perspectives on health care access, caring for our bodies, and caring for our neighbors.
    10. Reach out to media outlets at local community colleges and universities.
    11. Drop off palm cards about health coverage at your local synagogue, child care center, gym, or other local business.
    12. Sign up for NCJW’s distance learning conference call, “When Chicken Soup Isn’t Enough: Helping Our Communities Get Covered,” to learn more about the benefits of marketplace coverage.  Go to NCJW’s website for more information.
    13. Prepare a “Mitzvah Day” for your congregation before March 31. Work with another organization already involved in outreach to uninsured residents in your community to help raise awareness about how coverage works and how to access an affordable, quality plan in the marketplace.
    14. Write an op-ed encouraging reads to sign up for health insurance. ! Especially if you are a member of the clergy or an organizational leader, your voice inspires others to learn more about health coverage.
    15. Partner with local college student clubs to set up an information table on campus at venues such as the student center, cafeteria, or near the bookstore.
    16. Post a widget or badge on your organization or business website.
    17. Host a viewing party for an educational webinar about the marketplace provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership Center. Webinars are available in English and Spanish. Learn more and see the upcoming schedule at http://www.hhs.gov/partnerships/resources/aca_101-invite.html.  
      How the Marketplace Works

    18. Deliver a sermon or drash to highlight health care themes, and why people in your congregation should talk to their friends and family about getting covered.