President Joe Biden is now being credited for bringing a Jewish High Holiday celebration to the White House for the first time. During his term as President, the White House is set to host a Rosh Hashanah reception on Sept. 30.
Coming to the history of Jewish celebrations at the White House, President Bill Clinton was the first president to host a Hanukkah party for staff, and President George W. Bush made it a public event for Jewish community leaders, a practice continued by President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump. Obama instituted White House Passover seders, a practice Trump did not continue.
On the other hand, Rosh Hashanah was celebrated in a rather quaint way with dignitaries sometimes lighting a menorah at the Naval Observatory- a trend that was also started by Biden when he was the Vice President during the 2009-2017 Obama administration. Biden hosted Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot receptions at the Naval Observatory, the official vice presidential residence, the first vice president to do so.
Last year, the Biden White House hosted a last-minute Hanukkah menorah lighting in person but has otherwise limited its Jewish events to virtual offerings because of the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, VP Kamala Harris and her husband Douglas Emhoff — the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president — lit a menorah at a window at the Naval Observatory, and this year Harris and Emhoff held a seder at their residence for family and Jewish staffers. Harris and Emhoff are also the first executive family to affix a mezuzah to their official residence.