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White House celebrates Jewish American Heritage Month

“Antisemitic incidents are at a record high. This is hard to believe,” U.S. President Joe Biden said at the event.

Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt of the Broadway musical “Parade” perform at the White House for Jewish American Heritage Month, May 16, 2023. Source: YouTube.
Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt of the Broadway musical “Parade” perform at the White House for Jewish American Heritage Month, May 16, 2023. Source: YouTube.

Addressing a packed White House East Room on May 16 to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month, U.S. President Joe Biden trotted out several Jewish references.

He said that at the dinner table, his father taught him about the “Shoah,” using the Hebrew term for the Holocaust. He thanked “Michelle”—evidently Israeli-American James Beard-winning chef Michael Solomonov—“who ensured that today is both delicious and glatt kosher.” And he said, “The Talmud says, ‘It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it.’ ” (The quote actually comes from the Mishnah.)

Stars of the Broadway show “Parade,” which addresses antisemitism and has drawn antisemitic protests, were on hand for the event. The pool report noted that at one point, an “up-tempo, klezmer-type version of ‘Hevenu Shalom Aleichem’ ” played. “No hora dancing was seen, but then it was pretty tight in the room.”

Biden said that Jewish Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is being detained in Russia “because he shed some light on the darkness in Russia.” The president also said he is proud of his and his colleagues’ support for Israel’s Iron Dome, “which has intercepted thousands of rockets and saved countless lives.”

He also repeated the claim—at odds with some reporting—that neo-Nazis and white nationalists marching in Charlottesville, Va., at the “Unite the Right” rally in the summer of 2017 inspired him to run for president.

“Antisemitic incidents are at a record high. This is hard to believe,” Biden said.

Those who attended the event included second gentleman Douglas Emhoff; Attorney General Merrick Garland; and Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger, all of whom are Jewish, as well as first lady Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Eighteen Jewish Democratic members of Congress were also on hand: Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.) and Reps. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Janice Schakowsky (Ill.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), Steve Cohen (Tenn.), David Cicilline (R.I.), Suzanne Bonamici (Ore.) Lois Frankel (Fla.), Bradley Schneider (Ill.), Jamie Raskin (Md.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Susan Wild (Pa.), Kimberly Schrier (Wash.), Sara Jacobs (Calif.), Kathy Manning (N.C.), Jared Moskowitz (Fla.), Daniel Goldman (N.Y.) and Rebecca Balint (Vt.).

Also attending were Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog; Stuart Eizenstat, a former U.S. ambassador to the European Union and a former State Department special adviser on Holocaust issues; Maj. David Frommer, a Jewish chaplain at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; Auschwitz survivor Irene Fogel Weiss; and other political and community leaders and activists.

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