U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday denounced the pervasiveness and destructiveness of antisemitism in America and around the world, at a gathering at the White House marking Hanukkah.

“This year’s Hanukkah arrival—arrives in the midst of rising emboldenment of antisemitism at home and, quite frankly, around the world. I recognize your fear, your hurt, your worry that this vile and venom is becoming too normal,” said Biden.

“As your president, I want to make this clear—as my dad would say, and many of you have said: Silence is complicity. We must not remain silent. And I made no bones about it from the very beginning: I will not be silent. America will not be silent. I mean it,” he added.

Biden said that he was honored to be marking a new tradition, “and that is the lighting of what will be the first-ever permanent White House menorah. It will also be the first Jewish artifact in the entire White House collection,” he said, adding: “Like this White House menorah, our commitment to the safety of the Jewish people and to the vibrancy of Jewish life that’s tightly woven into every fabric of America, it’s permanent. Permanent.”

He noted that he recently launched an effort to develop a national strategy to counter antisemitism and also convened the first-of-its-kind White House summit on combating hate-fueled violence.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, the former rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, who was held captive during last January’s hostage crisis at the synagogue, also spoke at the event.

“A lot of people will ask me about that day, and they’ll ask about the trauma, and they’ll talk about it as a tragedy. And I’ll respond back that we all made it out. Thank God it wasn’t a tragedy. It could have been—it could have been so much worse. It was terrible and it was terrifying, and we were able to get out alive,” he said.

“And that is the story of Hanukkah—the story where the Jewish people suffered through oppression and pain and loss and war. And despite all the difficulties and all the struggle, we are here today to celebrate because, against all odds, Judaism endured, and Judaism has thrived.

“It is not a contradiction to acknowledge our challenges and still be filled with appreciation,” Cytron-Walker continued. “Our history is filled with tenacity and resilience. We have experienced the worst of humanity, haven’t we? And we refuse—we refuse to give in to despair. In our darkest hours, we bring light. We bring light to our family. We bring light to our community. We bring light to our country. We bring light to our world.”

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