Jewish Leaders Attend Presidential Reception at White House
President Obama promises “Unwavering support for Israel”
In 1862, Ulysses S. Grant, then a general in the Union army, issued an order that would have expelled Jews as a class from what was known during the Civil War as the military department of Tennesee. American Jews protested, including one Jewish merchant who traveled from Kentucky to meet with President Abraham Lincoln at the White House. After the meeting, Lincoln immediately revoked the order. Grant later recognized his mistake and as the president, went out of his way to appoint Jews to office and condemn anti-Semitism across the world.
President Obama told this story to a room filled with Jewish leaders at the White House recently during a reception for Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM). On hand were several leaders from The Jewish Federations of North America.
During his speech, the president acknowledged the United States’ “unwavering” support for Israel and its security, and also praised the contributions that American Jews have made throughout history.
“Like so many groups, Jews had to fight for their piece of the American dream. But this country holds a special promise that if we stand up for the traditions we believe in, and for the values we share, then our wrongs can be made right, our union can be made more perfect and our world can be repaired,” said President Obama. “Today, we don’t just celebrate all that American Jews have done for our country, we also look toward the future.”
The reception marked the third year that President Obama has honored JAHM at the White House; past years’ events have welcomed sports great Sandy Koufax and recording artist Regina Spektor, among other notable Jews. The current administration is continuing a tradition started by President George W. Bush, who proclaimed May as JAHM in 2006.
"It was an honor to represent The Jewish Federations of North America at the White House,” said Gelman. “The President spoke about America's long-time bond with the Jewish people and our steadfast support for Israel."
The reception was attended by approximately 400 guests including rabbis, members of Congress, and leaders in the business, arts, education, and public and community service fields. Rak Shalom, a University of Maryland group of a cappella singers, also performed.