Blog Posts Related to the American Jewish Community

  • Budget in Focus - Aid to Israel

    On February 13th, the President released his FY 13 Budget Proposal. Contained in that proposal is a rock solid commitment to Israel's security.  Informed by our ongoing high-level security dialogue with key Israeli defense and intelligence officials, the President has requested unprecedented support for Israel, even in a challenging fiscal climate.

  • USDA commemorates the “New Year of the Trees”

    USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman Speaks at a Ceremony for Tu B'Shevat

    United States Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman next to the freshly planted Dawn Redwood for the Celebration of Tu B’Shevat “The New Year of the Trees” event at the USDA Headquarters, Wednesday, February 8, 2012. (Photo by Lance Cheung, USDA)

    This post originally appeared on the US Department of Agriculture blog.

    It is written in the Talmud – a central text of Judaism – that ‘just as my parents planted for me, so I will plant for my children.’ Here at USDA, we’re planting trees across the country and in Israel to bring the wide-ranging benefits of trees, both ecological and spiritual, to future generations.

    Today, USDA Natural Resources and Environment Under Secretary Harris Sherman planted a tree next to the USDA’s Washington DC headquarters in commemoration of Tu B’Shevat, “The New Year of the Trees.” This event brought together the local Jewish community and government leaders alike to share their common bond of conserving our natural resources and leaving a healthier world for the next generation. 

  • Making ‘Never Again’ a Reality: UNESCO Conference on Holocaust Education

    Ed note: This has been cross-posted from

    The weather in Paris today reflected the mood in UNESCO's conference room -- gloomy with a chance of sunshine. For just as the clouds were heavy, so too was the discussion of Holocaust education and how genocide and hatred still exist despite the global effort to teach the lessons of the Holocaust. And just as the sun poked through at the end of the day, so did the optimism that great minds can come together and tackle this problem.

  • Statements on International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust

    On Friday, January 27th, the United States joined the world community in commemorating the tragedies of the Holocaust on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Below are statements marking this day of remembrance from President Barack Obama and other administration officials.

    Statement by the President on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

    “Together with the State of Israel, and all our friends around the world, we dedicate ourselves to giving meaning to those powerful words: “Never Forget. Never Again.”

    Read the full text of President Obama’s statement here

    Statement by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN

    “On this day of limitless grief, we honor those who suffered and died and keep faith with all who are tormented by demagogues and killers.”

    Read the full text of Ambassador Susan Rice’s statement here

    Remarks by Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo, U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN

    “There are actually some, incredible as it always seems, who would deny that this Holocaust took place, or seek to minimize it as simply another episode in the long story of mankind’s crimes. But evidence matters. There is more than enough of it. And it lasts. We will fight denial for as long as it takes.”

    Read the full text of Ambassador DiCarlo’s remarks here

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

  • 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