President Biden Lights up White House with Chanukah Party: an Inside Look

President Biden Lights up White House with Chanukah Party: an Inside Look

By Yehudit Garmaise

Tonight at 8pm, when President Joe Biden hosted 300 to 400 guests at his White House Chanukah party, Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, the executive vice president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America (RAA), who attended the event, reported to BoroPark24 on the inside scoop.

When the president’s guests first walked into the East Room of the White House, a US Marine Corps band played music, and then Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt, the director of the halachic medical division of the RAA, and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff were honored to light the candles.

“When you walked in, you felt a festive atmosphere,” said Rabbi Mirocznik, whose RAA office is in Boro Park. “The menorah was displayed prominently and symbolically. 

“It was a gorgeous event."

“When Biden welcomed the crowd, he was warm, and you felt you were at home,” said Rabbi Mirocznik, who reported that the president then spoke, near a painting of George Washington, the US’s first president."

One of the most moving parts of the evening, said District Leader David Schwartz, who attended the event, was watching Sen. Schumer light the menorah, right after the president spoke with emotion about the Senate Majority Leader's father, Abe Schumer, a"h, for whom Sen. Schumer just got up from sitting shiva."

“The ancient lights of the menorah have endured hardship and have endured joy, and they are still around fighting until this day,” said Biden, who also explained that to be American is not “an ethnicity,” because so many different ethnicities co-exist in America, which came out of the idea that all people are created equally.

“We are a country based upon fairness and equality, and we will stay diligent to fight anti-Semitism and hate because everyone should always feel safe at home.”

After Biden spoke for approximately 15 minutes, Rabbi Mirocznik said that he grabbed a brief opportunity to go over to the president and shake his hand.

“He was very warm, hospitable, and very presidential,” said Rabbi Mirocznik, who added that, unlike previous years, no food was served this year because of COVID.

Emhoff then spoke about how honored and touched he, “a child of immigrants who came in the country through Ellis Island,” was to be lighting, every night of Chanukah, the first menorah ever to be lit in the residence of the vice president.

“[Lighting the menorah] is a White House tradition,” Emhoff said, “but for the first time in history [in the White House], it is a family tradition.”

Other locals who attended the event were OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer, Malcolm Hoenline, the chairman emeritus of the Conference of Major Jewish Organizations, and  Leon Goldenberg, who serves on the executive board of the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition.

Rabbi Mirocznik, who also attended the Chanukah party of former President Donald Trump, last year, explained why it is so important that Orthodox Jews establish good relationships with government officials: whether we agree with those elected officials or not. 

“We have to come to recognize that America is the land of chesed, and we have an obligation to work with our elected officials, our president, and pray for their well-being, the well-being of our country, the security of Eretz Yisroel, and the security and welfare of the Jewish people.”

What Rabbi Mirocznik, who often works with government officials on issues that concern Jews, said touched him the most about the event was to extent to which Biden, who as a former ambassador to Israel, senator, and vice president, he has had relationships with every prime minister of Israel since Levi Eshkol, expressed his commitment to fighting anti-Semitism and to Israel’s security and safety. 

Rabbi Mirocznik said that he definitely got the sense that Biden understood Israel’s need for US support: especially when the president recalled a conversation he had with former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, after the Six-Day War. 

Although Israel famously and miraculously won the 1967 war, at the time, Biden asked Meir why she looked so serious. 

In response, Meir told Biden, “Actually, we are optimistic about our survival and our future,” said the president with understanding. “As Jews,” Meir then said with dark humor, “we have nowhere else to go.”

“As Jews, we can have policy disagreements with our elected officials,” Rabbi Mirocznik said. “We can disagree on certain points, but tonight the most important Biden reaffirmed about which we can agree were his commitment to staying vigilant in the fight against anti-Semitism and hate and his commitment to Israel’s security and defense.”

“With any president and elected officials, we always must strive to establish a base of support. We might like some administrations’ policies more than other administrations, but we have to work with every administration to the best of our abilities to protect and support the Jewish community.”

“We have to recognize that America is the land of chesed, and that we have an obligation to work with our government officials: the president, and pray for our country’s well-being, the security of Eretz Yisroel, and the welfare and safety of the Jewish people, and that is why we attend these events.”

Photos by Shaya Kalman

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