Blog Posts Related to the American Jewish Community

  • Highlights from the State of the Union

    Highlights from the State of the Union:

    •  “We will stand against violence and intimidation.  We will stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings –- men and women; Christians, Muslims and Jews. “

     On Health Care:

    • “I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny your coverage, or charge women differently than men…..For less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education each year, we’ve convinced nearly every state in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning -- the first time that’s happened in a generation.

     On Clean Energy:

    • "I’m directing my administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power 3 million homes.  And I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, working with us, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history -– with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year."

    On Mortgages:

    • "And that’s why I’m sending this Congress a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low rates."

    On the Economy:

    • "Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that do the same.  It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom.  No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts.  An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody."
    • "Right now, our most immediate priority is stopping a tax hike on 160 million working Americans while the recovery is still fragile.    People cannot afford losing $40 out of each paycheck this year.  There are plenty of ways to get this done.  So let’s agree right here, right now:  No side issues.  No drama.  Pass the payroll tax cut without delay.  Let’s get it done."

    On Iran:

    •  "And we will safeguard America’s own security against those who threaten our citizens, our friends, and our interests.  Look at Iran.  Through the power of our diplomacy, a world that was once divided about how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program now stands as one.  The regime is more isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent. Let there be no doubt:  America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal."

    On Cooperation with Israel:

    •  "Our ironclad commitment -- and I mean ironclad -- to Israel’s security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history."

    Watch the video of the enhanced State of the Union, learn more about our Office Hours marathon, and get involved and ask questions about the President's speech at The full text of the State of the Union is available here.

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

  • 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.