Joe Biden, the United States vice president, spoke with rabbis and Jewish clergy during a High Holidays conversation on Zoom on Friday, shortly after holding the White House’s first-ever Rosh Hashanah reception.
Before anything else, Biden offered condolences to anyone impacted by Hurricane Ian’s deadly route 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.
“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, I’m afraid. And whatever it takes, we’re going to stay there until we get it done,” Biden added.
He related a tale about the first lady leaving him a note on his mirror during a particularly trying moment eight years ago to those present.
A sentence from the letter said, “Faith sees best in the dark.”
And that is precisely what each and every one of you does each day as you peek through and provide light to your congregations across America.
So significant. Therefore, this is the main thing I want to say to you: Thank you. Biden said, “Thank you, thank you. Every day of the year, but especially during this time of reflection, renewal, and penitence, you give me courage and hope.
It matters, too.
The president references his most recent journey to the Holy Land last summer, where he met with two Holocaust survivors who had immigrated to America after the war, while he wove together a few tired tales about his relationship with Israel and his encounters with various Israeli leaders.
He mentioned how his administration had worked with Congress to win record financing for nonprofit groups, including synagogues and religious institutions, to provide protection.
According to Biden, nobody in America should ever be afraid to attend church or school or to stroll down the street while sporting a religious emblem.
With the reminder that “the promise of tomorrow is embedded in thousands of years of Jewish history and the tale of America as well,” he concluded by pleading with everyone listening to take action to bring about change.
American Deborah Lipstadt, a brief question-and-answer session with a few rabbis, was held during the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism call.
Although domestic anti-Semitism is outside her purview, she claimed that she just met with Deputy Attorney General Kristen Clarke, who is in charge of keeping track of and responding to hate crimes.
She claimed to have also discussed the matter with the Department of Education.
“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.
To “urge students on campus to look to the many Jewish student organizations for help, for support, and to recognize that nothing was solved by silence,” Lipstadt, a graduate of the City University of New York system, where anti-Semitism is on the rise, used the occasion on Friday.
Shelley Greenspan, the White House’s point person for the American Jewish community, convened the call on Friday.