(JNS.org) In a rare presidential address at a synagogue, President Barack Obama spoke at Adas Israel Congregation on Friday in Washington, DC. Wearing a kippah, Obama touted America’s “unbreakable” bond with Israel, vowed to “block every single path” Iran might take towards developing a nuclear weapon, and called rising anti-Semitism “not some passing fad.”
Echoing his comments that were published a day earlier in The Atlantic, Obama told the congregation that any deal nuclear deal between world powers and Iran “will have my name on it.”
Obama, whose views and policies on Israel are often the source of contentious debates in the Jewish community, said he “came to know Israel as a young man” through “incredible images,” adding that he was inspired by “Israel overcoming these incredible odds.” Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Obama said he understood Israel’s frustrations, calling the Palestinians “not the easiest of partners.”
The president’s speech also covered the rising anti-Semitism around the world, especially in Europe, where attacks on Jewish institutions and individuals have increased dramatically over the past year.
“We’ve seen a deeply disturbing rise in anti-Semitism,” Obama said. “This is not some passing fad. When we allow anti-Semitism to take root, our souls are destroyed and it will spread.”
Obama also praised the American Jewish community, saying it has helped “make our union more perfect.” He called May’s annual Jewish American Heritage Month a celebration of the “power of hope.”
The presidential address coincided with “Solidarity Sabbath,” an initiative organized by the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice in which American and European political leaders took specific steps as statements against anti-Semitism. Those steps included attending Shabbat services on Friday at their local synagogues, hosting or attending Shabbat dinners, issuing public statement, or holding meetings about combating religious intolerance in their countries. Leaders participating in “Solidarity Sabbath” came from Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, The Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Spain, Sweden, and the U.S.