update deskJewish & Israeli Holidays

Passover 2023

Biden Passover op-ed touts antisemitism record, echoes claim on motivation to run

The U.S. president called for unity against hate.

U.S. President Joe Biden relaunches the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Feb. 15, 2021. Source: Twitter.
U.S. President Joe Biden relaunches the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Feb. 15, 2021. Source: Twitter.

Hours before Passover begins, CNN published a 1,250-word op-ed by U.S. President Joe Biden titled “To fight antisemitism, we must remember, speak out and act.”

Biden called the biblical Exodus a “miraculous story” and Passover “a timeless, powerful story of faith, hope and redemption that has inspired oppressed people everywhere for generations.” In addition to looking to the past, the holiday is also “a cautionary tale of the present and our future as a democracy,” the president claimed.

“As Jews read from the Haggadah about how evil in every generation has tried to destroy them, antisemitism is rising to record levels today,” he wrote. “To the Jewish community, I want you to know that I see your fear, your hurt and your concern that this venom is being normalized.”

In the op-ed, Biden repeated his claim, which appears at odds with the facts, that seeing neo-Nazis and white nationalists marching in Charlottesville, Va., in the summer of 2017 “spewing the same antisemitic bile that was heard in Germany in the 1930s” motivated him to run for president.

“Rest assured that I am committed to the safety of the Jewish people. I stand with you. America stands with you,” he wrote. “Under my presidency, we continue to condemn antisemitism at every turn. Failure to call out hate is complicity. Silence is complicity. And we will not be silent.”

Biden noted his visit to Israel last year “to reaffirm America’s unshakeable commitment to its security.” Again borrowing from his International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement in January, he wrote that the promise of “Never Again,” of which he was reminded at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, “was a promise my father first instilled in me at our family dinner table, educating my siblings and me about the horrors of the Shoah.”

Biden touted his and his administration’s records on antisemitism, including the appointment of Deborah Lipstadt as an ambassador-level special envoy (a designation that went into effect before his presidency); increasing security funding for nonprofits including synagogues; and a “United We Stand Summit” at the White House, “convening governmental and non-governmental leaders from across the country to declare that hate-fueled violence can have no safe harbor in America.”

Last month, Andrew Baker, a senior American Jewish Committee official, said that in an unusual reversal, America, which once led in combating antisemitism, now finds itself needing advice from European colleagues.

“As we celebrate Passover, let us reflect that like the four children in the Haggadah, despite our differences we sit at the same table, as one people, one nation, one America,” wrote Biden. Let us join hands across faiths, races and backgrounds to make clear that evil will not win; hate will not prevail; and antisemitism will not be the story of our time.”

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