President Joe Biden, along with Jewish supporters, gathered in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday evening to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month. The event not only

highlighted the contributions of Jews in America since colonial times but also addressed the growing concerns over contemporary threats to American Jewry, particularly the resurgence of antisemitism.

President Biden expressed his alarm at the recent increase in antisemitic incidents, stating that they have reached record highs in the United States. The emphasis on addressing antisemitism was evident throughout the event, including the choice of entertainment, which featured songs from the Broadway musical "Parade" that centers around the 1915 lynching of a Jewish man. This departure from past events that focused on Jewish achievements aimed to shed light on the pressing issue of antisemitism.

The President reflected on how his father's anger towards the United States for not doing enough to stop the Holocaust shaped his own worldview. He also mentioned how the 2017 Neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia, and former President Donald Trump's equivocation in condemning the marchers further motivated him to combat hate and run for president.

The event marked the first Jewish American Heritage Month celebration at the White House since 2016. The Trump administration had paid less attention to the commemoration, in contrast to the bipartisan law passed in 2006 that established the month-long observance. The Biden administration's plans to hold the event in previous years were delayed due to the pandemic.

President Biden expanded the understanding of antisemitism beyond attacks from the far right, acknowledging the threats faced by visibly Orthodox Jews and the challenges Jewish students encounter on college campuses. He mentioned incidents such as violent attacks on synagogues and Jewish businesses, Jews being targeted in public spaces, and the presence of swastikas in various settings.

Biden's comprehensive approach to combating antisemitism came after Jewish groups met with Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff in December 2022, urging a broader strategy. Emhoff, who also spoke at the event, leads a task force expected to release a comprehensive plan to counter antisemitism in the coming weeks.

The President announced that the strategy includes over 100 meaningful actions to be taken by government agencies. While he did not provide specific details, he mentioned that the plan aims to enhance understanding of antisemitism and Jewish heritage, increase security for Jewish communities, reverse the normalization of antisemitism, and foster coalitions. Biden called on Congress, state and local governments, technology and other companies, civil society, and faith leaders to join the efforts to counter antisemitism.

Amidst the serious discussions, the event also acknowledged the culinary and cultural contributions of Jews to the United States. Israeli-American chef Michael Solomonov was recognized for his achievements, and guests enjoyed a variety of kosher dishes prepared by him. The Marine Band added a lighter touch to the evening with a rendition of "Hava Nagila."

Nevertheless, the event aimed to underscore the historical presence of antisemitism in American society. Performers Ben Platt and Micaela Diamond, who star in "Parade," showcased songs from the musical, which tells the story of the unjust lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish man falsely accused of murder in Georgia in 1915.

Platt praised the musical's composer, Jason Robert Brown, for his portrayal of an important Jewish narrative. Both performers had to leave early to make it to their New York show, but their presence served as a poignant reminder of the enduring significance of combating antisemitism in contemporary America. Photo by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, Wikimedia commons.