Jewish American Heritage Month Reception at White House

President Barack Obama hosted the annual Jewish American Heritage Month celebration at the White House to honor and celebrate the Jewish community’s contributions to America. Obama welcomed everyone to the celebration by remarking upon the Jewish community’s long and important history of civic involvement. 400 Jewish leaders from across the nation attended. A partial guest list follows the jump below.

Remarks by President Barack Obama
White House, East Room, May 30, 2012

This year, we celebrate Jewish Heritage Month — Jewish American Heritage Month, and we’re also commemorating an important anniversary.  One hundred-fifty years ago, General Ulysses Grant issued an order — known as General Orders Number 11 — that would have expelled Jews, “as a class,” from what was then known as the military department of the Tennessee.  It was wrong.  Even if it was 1862, even if official acts of anti-Semitism were all too common around the world, it was wrong and indicative of an ugly strain of thought.

But what happened next could have only taken place in America. Groups of American Jews protested General Grant’s decision.  A Jewish merchant from Kentucky traveled here, to the White House, and met with President Lincoln in person.  After their meeting, President Lincoln revoked the order — one more reason why we like President Lincoln.  (Laughter and applause.)

And to General Grant’s credit, he recognized that he had made a serious mistake.  So later in his life, he apologized for this order, and as President, he went out of his way to appoint Jews to public office and to condemn the persecution of Jews in Eastern Europe.

Today, we have a few documents on display — maybe some of you saw them when you walked in.  There are two letters of protest from Jewish organizations to President Lincoln.  There is President Lincoln’s handwritten reply, saying that he had taken action.  And there is a receipt for the donation that President Grant made to the Adas Israel Synagogue here in Washington, when he attended a service there in 1876.

So together, these papers tell a story, a fundamentally American story.  Like so many groups, Jews have 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 in the values we share, then our wrongs can be made right; our union can be made more perfect and our world can be repaired.

Today, it’s our turn, our generation’s turn.  And you guys, your generation’s turn.  You’re younger than us.  (Laughter.)  We got some later generations here in the front.  We’re the ones who have to stand up for our shared values.   Here at home, we have to rebuild an America where everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same rules.

Beyond our borders, we have to stand alongside our friends who share our commitment to freedom and democracy and universal rights; and that includes, of course, our unwavering commitment to the State of Israel and its security and the pursuit of a just and lasting peace.  (Applause.)

It’s no secret that we’ve got a lot of work to do.  But as your traditions teach us, while we are not obligated to finish the work, neither are we free to desist from that work.

So today, we don’t just celebrate all that American Jews have done for our country; we also look toward the future.  And as we do, I know that those of you in this room, but folks all across this country will continue to help perfect our union; and for that, I am extraordinarily grateful.

God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

Guest list follows the jump.
More after the jump.
Partial Guest List

  • Rabbi Andrea Merow of Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park
  • Rabbi Eric Yanoff of Adath Israel in Merion Station
  • Rabbi David Ackerman of Beth Am Israel in Penn Valley
  • Representative Allyson Schwartz (D-PA)
  • NJDC Chair Marc R. Stanley
  • NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris
  • Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren
  • Democratic National Committee Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
  • Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)
  • Representative Shelley Berkley (D-NV)
  • Representative Howard Berman (D-CA)
  • Representative David Cicilline (D-RI)
  • Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN)
  • Representative Susan Davis (D-CA)
  • Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL)
  • Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY)
  • Representative Sander Levin (D-MI)
  • Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY)
  • Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
  • Representative Jarrod Polis (D-CO)
  • Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
  • Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA)
  • Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA)

Sen. Paul Call to End “Welfare” to Israel Rejected by Senate Dems

— David Streeter and David A. Harris

A group of Senate Democrats has sent a letter to Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the House Budget Committee, rejecting Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) proposal to cut foreign aid to Israel. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Robert Casey (D-PA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) proclaimed in the letter that Paul’s “remarks are alarming and aim to weaken the decades-long bipartisan consensus on U.S. support for Israel.”

This is the second time in as many weeks that Paul has advocated this dangerous and irresponsible policy. This time though, Paul went further and ludicrously claimed that American assistance to Israel is nothing more than ‘welfare.’

American assistance to Israel is certainly not welfare. For decades, the U.S.-Israel relationship has paid significant dividends for America’s national security and has helped Israel to become America’s greatest democratic ally in a difficult and dangerous neighborhood. This is not welfare; helping our democratic ally Israel helps America on so many levels.

Some may claim that Paul speaks only for himself. But if that truly is the case, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and other Republican leaders must immediately speak out loudly and clearly to condemn the reversal in U.S. foreign policy that Senator Paul continues to advocate. They must do so before Paul’s disturbing and now weekly appeals for an end to American assistance to Israel become dogma among certain segments of the Republican Party’s base, threatening the bipartisan nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

The text of the letter from Senate Democrats follows the jump.
February 1, 2011

Dear Chairman Rogers and Chairman Ryan:

We write in light of recent statements that demonstrate the intent of certain Senators to eliminate foreign aid funding to the nation of Israel. Recently, Republican Senator Rand Paul suggested that the United States should “halt all foreign aid including its financial aid to Israel.” These remarks are alarming and aim to weaken the decades-long bipartisan consensus on U.S. support for Israel. Both Republicans and Democrats are committed to reining in the federal deficit, but assistance to Israel is not a matter of “pork barrel spending” – rather U.S. foreign aid to Israel demonstrates America’s rock-solid commitment to ensuring Israel’s right to exist.

Israel is the only democratic nation in the Middle East and one of our most trusted allies. A stable and secure Israel is strongly in our national security interest and has been a cornerstone of our foreign policy for over half-a-century. Using Congress’s bipartisan commitment to reining in government spending as a reason to abandon Israel is unacceptable and should be immediately rejected.

At a time when U.S. foreign aid is being utilized to strengthen our partnerships around the world, particularly in the Middle East where our relationships are more important than ever, we urge you to commit to maintain full foreign aid funding to Israel.  As members of the United States Senate, we will work aggressively to prevent any attempts to abandon one of our most trusted allies. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Senator Stabenow

Senator Nelson

Senator Menendez

Senator Cardin

Senator Brown

Senator Casey

Senator Whitehouse

Senator Ben Cardin Endorses Joe Sestak

As part of the Sestak Senate campaign’s continuing Jewish outreach efforts, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) will be visiting Philadelphia tomorrow (Tuesday, October 19) to campaign for Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA 7).

At 11:15 am, Sen. Cardin will lead a press conference at the corner of 5th and Market (diagonally across from the National Museum of American Jewish History) to discuss Joe Sestak’s long history of support for Israel and Jewish issues, first as an Admiral in the U.S. Navy and now as a Congressman.

Senator Cardin will also be addressing the lunch-time crowd at the Stiffel JCC in South Philly later in the day.

This event follows on the heels of key endorsements in Philadelphia last week by President Barrack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden, Senator Arlen Specter, Senator Chuck Schumer and Senator Bob Casey.