Connect with us


The White House celebrates Hanukkah in the shadow of rising antisemitism



WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two mezuzahs at the vice president’s residence. A custom-built menorah for the White House. A Biden grandson in Hanukkah pajamas.

The Biden administration’s celebration of Hanukkah this year was suffused with grief over reports of burgeoning antisemitism but leavened with words, rites and symbols meant to assure American Jews that this was their permanent home.

Monday night’s Hanukkah party at the White House event included the unveiling of the first menorah to be added to the White House collection. Resident carpenters crafted the elegant slab of weathered wood from lumber left over from a 1950 renovation of the mansion.

As the White House explained in a backgrounder, “Once an item has been added to the White House collection, it is forever a permanent fixture of the White House archives and cannot be removed from the archives by a future administration or Residence Staff.”

“Other menorahs have been borrowed before -— borrowed — beautiful, significant and meaningful ones,” First Lady Jill Biden told the crowd of mostly Jewish guests in the White House’s Grand Foyer, sparkling with gold-themed Christmas decorations, before Monday’s menorah-lighting. “But the White House has never had its own menorah until now. It is now a cherished piece of this home, your home.”

The president picked up on the theme in his remarks after the candles were lit. “You know, to celebrate Hanukkah, previous administrations borrowed a menorah with a special significance of survival, hope, and joy,” he said. “This year, we thought it was important to celebrate Hanukkah with another message of significance: permanence. Permanence.”

 It didn’t hurt either Biden’s messaging that just days earlier the cameras caught them crossing the White House grounds holding hands with their Jewish grandson. Beau, whose parents are Hunter Biden and Melissa Cohen, sported a puffy blue coat, a knapsack, and Hanukkah-themed blue pajama pants, emblazoned with white menorahs. 

Jews as a permanent part of the American fabric featured the night before at another first: A public lighting of a menorah at the residence of Vice President Kamala Harris, presided over by her Jewish husband, Doug Emhoff. Emhoff pointed out the house’s mezuzahs, the small cases affixed to the doorposts of Jewish homes.

“There’s two of them, affixed to our door frames. And as you can see the menorah in the window, all for the first time,” Emhoff said. He likened the moment to the first Hanukkah he and Harris celebrated as a couple, when she embraced his traditions.

“Flash forward to when I met this beautiful woman over here,” Emhoff said, after describing the American Hanukkahs he enjoyed as a child in New Jersey. ‘She bought me a menorah for our first Hanukkah together when we were first setting up our home in Los Angeles, because it was important for her to know that we had a menorah to illuminate this home that we were building together — this life that we were building together because she knows it’s important to me. It’s important to me as a Jew and all of us as part of our religion and our culture. And as she said, as the first Jewish person married to a president or a vice president, I understand the weight of that responsibility, the obligation that that brings.”

Emhoff was referring to his work convening a round table earlier this month to solicit strategies for countering antisemitism. At that event, he personalized the struggle, saying “I’m in pain right now, our community is in pain.”

The word “scourge” kept coming up at the events. “I’ve launched a new effort to develop a national strategy to counter the scourge of antisemitism and convene the first-of-its-kind White House summit on combating hate-fueled violence,” Biden said during his remarks, referring to the task force he launched a week after Emhoff’s event.

Monday’s candle lighters included Bronia Brandman, a Holocaust survivor who met with Biden on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January; Michèle Taylor, the ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council, who is a daughter and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors; and Avi Heschel, whose grandfather, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, fled Nazi-occupied Europe and joined with Martin Luther King in a Black-Jewish alliance during the civil rights movement.

Saying the blessing was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, the rabbi in Colleyville, Texas, who freed himself and his congregants from a hostage taker last January. “Antisemitism may be on the rise, and thank God that people are standing at our side,” he said. “We have had such overwhelming love and support, especially from our President and from Dr. Biden.”

On Sunday, the first night of Hanukkah, Attorney General Merrick Garland, who is Jewish, spoke at the lighting of the massive “National Menorah” placed on the Ellipse in front of the White House by Chabad-Lubavitch.

He described how his grandmother found refuge in the United States and how two of her siblings perished in the Holocaust. “The protection of the rule of law is the foundation of our system of government,” he said at the lighting. “As attorney general, I will never stop working to guarantee that protection to everyone in our country. All of us at the Department of Justice will never stop working to confront and combat violence and other unlawful acts, fueled by hate.”

The message of permanent refuge was a welcome one, but the degree to which it sank in varied.

Wiliam Daroff, the CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, contrasted Biden’s warm welcome with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s could shoulder to the rabbis who arrived at the White House in 1943 to appeal on behalf of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. “We’re standing here in the citadel of freedom and democracy, where the entire White House is focused on the Jewish people, on the Jewish story of survival,” Daroff said, “where the food is kosher. “

After Monday’s event, celebrants met for an after-party organized by the Jewish Democratic Council of America in the basement of the storied Hamilton hotel. They ate kosher-style sushi, slurped up cocktails (“The Gelty Pleasure”, a mix of Bailey’s, Kahlua, Demerara syrup and cold brew coffee was $14.99) and shared anxieties about America’s uncertain future, particularly in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s recent dalliance with open antisemites Kanye West and Nick Fuentes.

“Despite what we saw in the White House tonight, antisemitic incidents are on the rise in this country and not just those hateful comments that we hear,” Rep. Kathy Manning, a Jewish Democrat from North Carolina told the partygoers, “but violent attacks in synagogues, in Jews on the street across the country and frankly, throughout Europe.”


The post The White House celebrates Hanukkah in the shadow of rising antisemitism appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *





Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

Continue Reading

Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

Continue Reading


Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 - 2023 Jewish Post & News