Blog Posts Related to the American Jewish Community

  • 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. 

  • A Great First Week as the New Director of Jewish Outreach

    I just finished a great first week here in the White House Office of Public Engagement. The American Jewish community has a tremendous amount going on so I jumped right in! In just a few days, I was fortunate to meet some fabulous organizations including the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and the Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs.  I have already been struck by the depth and breadth of the work being done and am excited to meet with more Jewish organizations and community leaders in the weeks ahead.  From the most established groups founded in the nineteenth century to care for refugees, to brand new ones leading the way in sustainable development and social justice, Jewish community organizations are making an incredible impact.

    The week was especially meaningful to me as I was able to attend the dedication of the Jewish Chaplains Memorial on Chaplains Hill at Arlington National Cemetery. As the Grandson of two Jewish World War II veterans, I was proud to help honor the 14 Chaplains who made the ultimate sacrifice ministering to my grandfathers and their comrades in arms during conflicts dating to the Civil War. This monument honors among others, Rabbi Alexander D. Goode who was killed when the USAT Dorchester was sunk by a torpedo while in transit to Greenland. The four chaplains on board, two Protestant, one Catholic, and one Jewish, saved countless lives by giving away their lifejackets and helping to organize the evacuation of the ship. Numerous survivors of the Dorchesterreported seeing the four Chaplains, arms linked in prayer as the ship sank below the waves. The Chaplains on the Dorchester serve as an inspiration to Americans of all faiths of shared responsibility to safeguard our democracy. In fact, in April 2011, President Obama cited the heroism of the four Chaplains in proclamation for Jewish American Heritage Month.

    All in all, a fantastic first week!

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


  • L’Shana Tovah

    Watch President Obama's Rosh Hashanah Message, here

    At sundown tomorrow night, the Jewish community here in the United States and all over the world will gather to celebrate the start of the new year. Rosh Hashanah offers us an extraordinary sense of possibility because it provides us an opportunity to shape our world for the better.

    In his video greeting for the High Holy Days, President Obama says: 

    As the High Holidays begin, we look back on all the moments during the past year that gave us reason to hope.  Around the world, a new generation is reaching for their universal rights.  Here in the United States, we’ve responded to our challenges by focusing on the things that really matter – friendship, family, and community. 

    But this last year was also one of hardship for people around the world.  Too many of our friends and neighbors continue to struggle in the wake of a terrible economic recession.  And beyond our borders, many of our closest allies – including the State of Israel – face the uncertainties of an unpredictable age. 

    That is why my Administration is doing everything we can to promote prosperity here at home and security and peace throughout the world – and that includes reaffirming our commitment to the State of Israel.  While we cannot know all that the New Year will bring, we do know this: the United States will continue to stand with Israel, because the bond between our two nations is unshakable.

     As Jewish tradition teaches us, we may not complete the work, but that must never keep us from trying.  In that spirit, Michelle and I wish you, your families, and all who celebrate Rosh Hashanah a sweet year full of health, happiness, and peace.

    From the White House, we wish everyone a happy and sweet New Year.

  • Organizations Respond to President Obama's Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction

    On Monday, President Obama unveiled a plan for economic growth and deficit reduction (pdf) that details how to pay for the American Jobs Act while also paying down our debt over time. The plan, which is being sent to the Congressional Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, offers a balanced approach to further reduce our nation’s deficit and get our fiscal house in order, based on the values of shared responsibility and shared sacrifice. Organizations are adding their voice to the conversation and we would love to hear from you.

    Please join the conversation by commenting on the White House Facebook wall, tweeting, or visiting the White House Office of Public Engagement website.

    Communications Workers of America (CWA), Larry Cohen, President:

    The administration’s plan is a positive step toward overall tax fairness and ensuring that the wealthiest Americans pay at least the same percentage of their earnings as working and middle class Americans. Rates for the wealthiest Americans have been cut 75 percent in the last 50 years.

    Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Mary Kay Henry, President:

    President Obama was right to propose the millionaire’s tax and an end to the Bush tax cuts as an important step in ending tax giveaways and closing corporate loopholes for those who haven’t done their part to turn our country around.

    National Partnership for Women & Families, Debra L. Ness, President:

    In these tough economic times, when enormous challenges and the hardest of choices are before us, establishing priorities is more important than ever. President Obama’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction is a move in the right direction. It can help begin to address America's economic problems while prioritizing the health and economic survival of older and low-income women and others who are more vulnerable than ever in this recession.

  • The American Jobs Act and Nonprofits

    During these tough economic times, nonprofit organizations, both faith-based and secular, are the front-line responders to communities in need.  From convening support groups and prayer services to providing child care, teaching job skills, and putting Americans back to work, these nonprofit and faith-based groups are supporting working families and individuals across the country.  

    President Obama recently announced a major new proposal called the American Jobs Act and sent legislation to Congress for action.  The American Jobs Act is all about getting Americans working and putting money back in the pockets of the American people, and nonprofit organizations are a key part of this bill. 

    The President recognizes that roughly one in twelve workers in the United States are employed in the nonprofit sector, which is why he made nonprofits – both faith-based and secular – a key part of this bill.  The Act will help all Americans by creating jobs now, sparking economic growth, and providing relief to millions of families.  Under the Act, all business and organizations – including nonprofits – can receive a tax credit through partnering with state entities when they hire long-term unemployed individuals or veterans.  The Act also includes an innovative entrepreneurship and wage protection program that will allow unemployed workers to receive unemployment insurance while they start new businesses – including nonprofit enterprises.  And employers won’t have to be as hesitant to hire new employees, because the American Jobs Act would cut the payroll tax in half for the first $5 million in wages, and temporarily eliminate employer payroll taxes on wages for new workers or raises for existing workers.  This is great news for many small business and nonprofit organizations.