Blog Posts Related to the American Jewish Community

  • 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.


  • In the Heart of Motor City, Vice President Biden Addresses Yeshiva Beth Yehuda

    On November 13th, 2011, Vice President Biden delivered a speech to over 2,000 rabbis, educators and Jewish community and business leaders in Detroit. The remarks, included below, were made at the anniversary dinner of Yeshiva Beth Yehuda, the oldest and largest Jewish schools system in Michigan.


    Renaissance Center Marriott Hotel
    Detroit, Michigan

    THE VICE PRESIDENT:  I understand I’m not even the end of the program.  (Laughter.)

    Well, first of all, let me thank Debbie for inviting me.  And she is correct, everyone knows about you in Washington.  And everyone knows something else -- at least Joe Biden knows -- when Debbie Stabenow asks you something, just say yes the first time.  Don’t say, I have to check my schedule.  Don’t say, I’m not sure -- just say yes.  Governor, start listening to her.  Say yes, because Carl and everyone else listens to her.  (Applause.)

    By the way, Governor, it’s an honor to be with you tonight.  I appreciate your -- being with you.  I think we can call a quorum of the United States Congress here today.  (Laughter.)  To all my former colleagues in the House and the Senate, I say thank you for allowing me to be here with you.

    Ladies and gentlemen, 97th anniversary -- I’m told you began with a weekly class of just five students some 97 years ago.  And now, you’re the largest Jewish school system in the state.  And nearly a century -- for nearly a century you’ve set a standard for excellence not just in Jewish education, but in education period, preparing each generation for leadership and service in the community, which is an unyielding Jewish tradition.

  • Ensuring Israel's Qualitative Military Edge

    On Friday, November 4, 2011, Andrew Shapiro, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the State Department, delivered remarks at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. In case you missed it, you can read his speech below and watch the video here.

    Ed. Note: This transcript was posted on the website of the U.S. Department of State on November 4, 2011.


    Good morning. It’s great to be back at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The Washington Institute is a place that will always be near and dear to my heart. They did after all give me my first job in Washington. I can tell you that the place has gotten a lot bigger and a lot fancier than when I was here. But that’s because of the great work they do and I commend the work of Robert Satloff, David Makovsky, and many others for helping to build the Washington Institute into the place that it is today.

    I come before you at a time of dramatic change in the Middle East. In the past 11 months the region has undergone one of the most remarkable transformations since the end of the Cold War. Popular protests and uprisings across the region have brought about immense hope for the region. As President Obama said: “the United States sees the historic changes sweeping the Middle East and North Africa as a moment of great challenge, but also a moment of opportunity for greater peace and security for the entire region, including the State of Israel.”

    However, change – even for the better – is never easy. The tremendous events of the past year also bring uncertainty. For Israel, a country with security challenges that few countries in the world can contemplate, the volatility that we are witnessing in the region, is both a cause for optimism and concern. But in these changing times, there is one thing that Israel can always be certain of – and that’s America’s enduring commitment to its security. To be clear, in this time of dramatic change in the Middle East, the United States understands the challenges that these changes could pose to Israel’s security. Our policies and decisions will take this uncertainty into account. As Israel looks to the future, it should know that America will be there by its side.

    I am proud to say that this administration has taken steps to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship and preserve it in a new century and era of dramatic change. As a result of the Obama Administration’s commitment, our security relationship with Israel is broader, deeper and more intense than ever before. Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that the security cooperation between our two countries is “unprecedented.” In fact, I believe that no American administration has done as much as ours for Israel's security.

    Yet, with such significant change in the region, we must continue to forge an ever closer relationship. As Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, one of my primary responsibilities is to preserve Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge, or QME. This is not just a top priority for me, it is a top priority for the Secretary and for the President. To ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge, we are closely analyzing the changes in the region and assessing the impact on Israel’s security.

    Today I want to talk to you about U.S. support for Israel’s security – about why this is important to the United States, why it benefits our national security, and about the steps we are taking to ensure Israel’s security in these turbulent times.

  • An Exciting Week in American Jewish Life

    Last week was quite an exciting one. I started off in my hometown, speaking to the Agudath Israel of America Legislative Breakfast in New York City. The breakfast focused on the safety and security of the Jewish community and featured many exciting speakers, including Members of Congress, local elected officials, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, the FDNY Commissioner and members of the NYPD. The participants spoke of the collective partnership that is necessary to ensure that the Jewish community is safe from threats as well as resilient to deal with emergencies, no matter the cause.   

    From New York, I headed west to Denver for the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), where I had the opportunity to meet with JFNA professional and lay leadership as well as dozens of organizations that do work within the Federation system spanning the breath of Jewish North America. From organizations selling Challah to fight hunger, to ones helping to settle immigrants in America, I was struck by the overwhelming sense of commitment to tikun olam. Repairing the world, a central Jewish value dating to biblical times, has inspired innovation to help solve modern day problems.   

    While I mentioned it in a previous blog entry, I would be remiss if I did not recognize the contributions of our Veterans, who we honored last week. Just four weeks ago, we dedicated a monument to Jewish Chaplains who died while in the service. To them, and all who have served, we say thank you for all that you have done and all that you do.