Blog Posts Related to the American Jewish Community

  • Readout of the President’s Call with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel

    Today, as a part of their regular communication and cooperation on bilateral and regional issues, President Obama spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel. The readout of the President's call is below:

    They reviewed the recent meetings between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Amman and the President reaffirmed his commitment to the goal of a comprehensive and lasting peace in the region. The two leaders also discussed recent Iran-related developments, including the international community’s efforts to hold Iran accountable for its failures to meet its international obligations. The President reiterated his unshakable commitment to Israel’s security, and the President and the Prime Minister promised to stay in touch in the coming weeks on these and other issues of mutual concern.

    Jarrod Bernstein is the Director of Jewish Outreach in the Office of Public Engagement.


  • National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012

    Saturday, President Obama signed into law H.R. 1540, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012." This bill includes provisions related to Iran, specifically sanctions on foreign financial institutions that do business with the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), including for oil transactions.

    The United States has already had sanctions on CBI and Iran’s oil industry for decades -- so to make this legislation effective, the Obama Administration worked closely with Congress to shape the Iran provisions so that this new tool would increase the likelihood that other countries would stop doing business with CBI and Iran’s oil sector. This is important because the most effective approach is one that involves multilateral participation and is timed and phased to avoid negative repercussions to international oil markets and instead focus pressure on Iran.

    For three years, President Obama has led an unprecedented effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Through a two-track policy -- one track increasing the pressure on Iran to induce it live up to its responsibilities in the international community and the other track offering a very credible option for engagement, provided Iran accepts its responsibilities to the international community -- the United States has built a strong international coalition against Iran’s nuclear weapons aspirations. As a result, Iran now faces the toughest sanctions regime in the world and is more isolated diplomatically, both regionally and globally.

  • Hanukkah at the White House: History of the 2011 Menorah

    Learn the history behind the White House menorah. Watch the video here.

    A  very special menorah was the centerpiece of this year's Hanukkah celebration at the White House. It was created in a displaced persons’ camp after World War II and is dedicated to General Joseph T. McNarney, who served as the Commander in Chief of United States Forces in the European theatre from November 1945 to March 1947.

    The Hebrew inscription on the lamp, “A great miracle happened there,” is found on the dreidls (or tops)  that children play with on Hanukkah and refers to the miracle of Hanukkah, but may in this instance also poignantly signify the liberation and salvation of the Jews in the displaced persons’ camp.

    Watch how the White House "kosherized" the kitchen before the Hanukkah celebration
    Menorah that survived Katrina is a source of inspiration


  • Watch the White House Kitchen Get "Kosherized" for Hanukkah

    President Obama and the First Lady today sent their warmest wishes to everyone celebrating Hanukkah around the world. Earlier this month the First Couple hosted a Hanukkah celebration at the White House, an event that involved making over the kitchen according to the highest standard of kosher observance. Watch the video below for a look at the White House kitchen as it has never been seen before:

    Jarrod Bernstein is the Director of Jewish Outreach in the Office of Public Engagement.

  • Susan Rice at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

    Ambassador Susan Rice Receives the Conference of Presidents National Service Award

    Ambassador Susan Rice receives the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations' Fund National Service Award, presented by Conference Chairman Harold Tanner (Photo Courtesy of the Conference of Presidents). December 14, 2011. (by Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations)

    On December 14th, Ambassador Susan Rice addressed the Annual Leaders Recognition Reception for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Fund. The Conference Fund presented its annual National Service Award to Ambassador Rice at the dinner.

    Ambassador Rice began her speech with a focus on the United States' partnership with Israel:

    “Let me say a few words about our extraordinary partnership with Israel, starting by affirming an essential truth that will never change: the United States remains fully and firmly committed to the peace and security of the Jewish state of Israel. From the moment he took office, President Obama’s guidance has been unambiguous: to strengthen and deepen that commitment. He has been clear all along that our special relationship with Israel is deeply rooted in our common interests and our common values.”

    Click here to read the full speech.

    Jarrod Bernstein is the Director of Jewish Outreach in the Office of Public Engagement.

  • President Obama Speaks to the Union for Reform Judaism

    On Friday, President Obama delivered a speech at the 71st General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism. Watch the video below, or click here to read the transcript of the speech.

    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (293MB) | mp3 (28MB)

    Jarrod Bernstein is an Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement.

  • Four-Leaf Clover, Out of this World

    President Obama with Astronaut Dr. Gregory Chamitoff

    President Barack Obama greets astronaut Greg Chamitoff and his family in the Oval Office, Dec. 8, 2011. Chamitoff returned a tiny good luck charm he flew into space for the President and presented him with an official NASA space certificate. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) December 8, 2011. (by Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    It’s not every day that an astronaut asks if he can carry an item into space for the President.

    Last winter, after attending the 2010 White House Hanukkah celebration, NASA Astronaut Dr. Gregory Chamitoff contacted the White House and offered to fly a personal memento for President Obama on his upcoming mission on board Space Shuttle Endeavor (STS-134). Fast forward five months, and a quarter-size good luck charm made a remarkable journey into outer Space!

    During the 14-day mission in spring 2011, Dr. Chamitoff, an aeronautical engineer and planetary geologist, performed operations with the Shuttle and Station Robotic Arms. He also performed two spacewalks, the last of which was the final spacewalk of the Space Shuttle Program. Prior to Endeavor, he had made one previous spaceflight, a six-month mission aboard the space station in 2008. To date, Dr. Chamitoff has logged more than 198 days in space.

    And just two weeks ago, Dr. Chamitoff, along with his wife Chantal and twins Dimitri and Natasha, came to the White House to return the President’s four leaf clover. For the President, and all of us at the White House, the space program encapsulates what it means push the boundaries not only of where we can go but what we can do.

    To learn more about Dr. Chamitoff’s shuttle mission, click here.

    Danielle Borrin is the Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs & Public Engagement in the Office of the Vice President.


  • A White House Hanukkah Celebration

    20111209 Hanukkah at the WH

    President Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, delivers remarks at a Hanukkah reception in the Grand Foyer of the White House, Dec. 8, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Officially, Hanukkah doesn't begin for another 11 days -- but last night, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama decided to kick things off a little early with a celebration of the holiday at the White House.

    They were joined by Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in attendance, along with Israel's Ambassardor to the United States Michael Oren, the West Point Jewish Chapel Cadet Choir, and a large group of faith and community leaders.

    Hanukkah, the President said, is "an opportunity to recognize the miracles in our own lives:"

    Let’s honor the sacrifices our ancestors made so that we might be here today. Let’s think about those who are spending this holiday far away from home -– including members of our military who guard our freedom around the world. Let’s extend a hand to those who are in need, and allow the value of tikkun olam to guide our work this holiday season.

    This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations. And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.