By Mike Wagenheim

Shortly after hosting the White House’s first-ever Rosh Hashanah reception on Friday, The United States (US) President Joe Biden joined rabbis and Jewish clergy for a High Holidays call on Zoom. 

He started by expressing his sympathies with those affected by Hurricane Ian’s destructive path through Florida. 

“I know it’s especially hard for so many Jewish families in Florida, who just finished celebrating the New Year and are now in this solemn part of the High Holidays,” said Biden. 

Orthodox Jewish community wearing face masks attend the funeral for a rabbi who died from the coronavirus on April 05, 2020 in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“I was just with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and [Congressman] Ted Deutsch (two Jewish U.S. representatives from Florida) at the reception, and they’re working with me doing everything we can to help search and rescue missions, recovery and rebuilding efforts, which is going to go on for a significant amount of time, We are going to stay there until we get it done” the president added.

He told those on the call a story about the first lady taping a note on his mirror during a particularly troubling time about eight years ago. The note contained a quote that said, “Faith sees best in the dark.” 

“And that’s what all of you do every day as you look through and create light [in] your congregations all across America. So consequential. So, the main thing I want to say to you is this: Thank you. Thank you, thank you”, said Biden. 

He spoke of his administration’s work with Congress to secure record funding for security for nonprofits, including synagogues and religious organizations. 

Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, also joined the call for a brief question and answer session with select rabbis. 

She said that while domestic anti-Semitism doesn’t fall under her purview, she recently met with Deputy Attorney General Kristen Clarke, whose responsibility it is to monitor and respond to hate crimes. 

U.S. President Joe Biden shakes hands with Michael Herzog, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States after menorah lighting ceremony in celebration of Hanukkah in the East Room of the White House on December 01, 2021 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

She said she’s also been in touch with the Department of Education on the issue. “Just so that we can know what one another is doing so that we can be in touch, so that we can support one another and be [aware] of information when things happen”, Lipstadt said. 

Lipstadt, who graduated from the City University of New York system, where anti-Semitism is on the rise, took the occasion on Friday to “encourage students on campus to look to the various Jewish student organizations for help, for support, and to recognize that nothing was solved by silence.” 

Friday’s call was hosted by Shelley Greenspan, the White House liaison to the American Jewish community.
 

Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate.

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