President Obama Honors Jewish Americans at the White House

By Cullen Dirner

May 27, 2010 6:56pm

From Sunlen Miller With prominent Jewish Americans like Senator Specter, Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Ambassador Michael Oren, and Solicitor General Elena Kagan, President Obama hosted the first ever event held in at the White House to honor Jewish American heritage month. The president joked that the East Room crowd was “pretty fancy” – with senators, representatives, Supreme Court justices, rabbinical scholars, entrepreneurs, and Olympic athletes. “And Sandy Koufax,” the president said with a smile, “Sandy and I actually have something in common. We are both lefties. He can't pitch on Yom Kippur. I can't pitch.” The president said the diversity of talents and accomplishments in the room underscores the contributions that Jewish Americans have made to the country, a “critical part”, he said of the American story. “As Jews sought freedom and opportunity in America, these waves of immigrants and generations that followed have helped to make America what it is: richer, stronger, more prosperous, from the discoveries of Jonas Salk to the pioneering work of Albert Einstein, from the music of Irving Berlin to the poetry of Emma Lazarus.” But Mr, Obama countered, the contributions of Jewish Americans have not always been embraced. “Jewish communities have at times faced hardship and hostility, right here in the United States of America — a reminder that we have to respond at all times swiftly and firmly whenever bigotry rears its ugly head.  But no matter what the obstacles, Jewish Americans have endured, learning from each other, leaning on each other, true to their faith, leaning on the values that have been associated for so long with Jewish history: a sense of community, a sense of moral purpose, and an ethic of responsibility.” The contributions of Jewish-Americas, the president said, run deeper than just the tangible. “As a product of history and faith, Jewish Americans have helped to open our eyes to injustice, to people in need, and to the simple idea that we ought to recognize ourselves in the struggles of our fellow men and women. ” The president said that the nation’s responsibility does not end at the water’s edge. “It's why my administration is renewing American leadership around the world — strengthening old alliances and forging new ones, defending universal values while ensuring that we uphold our values here at home,” the president said. “That is why, even as we never waver in pursuing peace between Israelis, Palestinians and Arabs, our bond with Israel is unbreakable.” The crowd was treated to a reading by Rabbi Alysa Stanton and a performance by Regina Spektor. -Sunlen Miller

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