Biden: 'Silence is complicity' when it comes to antisemitism

Biden delivered the remarks during a Hanukkah reception that included adding the first-ever official White House menorah.

 Rabbi Citron-Walker speaks as US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden host a Hanukkah holiday reception at the White House in Washington, US, December 19, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)
Rabbi Citron-Walker speaks as US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden host a Hanukkah holiday reception at the White House in Washington, US, December 19, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)

WASHINGTON - US President Joe Biden vowed to fight the rise of antisemitism in America in a Hannukah candle-lighting event at the White House on Monday.

“This year's Hanukkah arrivals arrives in the midst of rising of antisemitism at home, and around the world,” said Biden to a crowed comprised of Jewish leaders, members of Congress, and Israeli Diplomats.

“I recognize your fear, your hurt, [and] your worry that this vile and venom is becoming too normal,” Biden added. “As you're president, and I want to make this clear: silence is complicity. We must not remain silent. And I made no bones about it from the very beginning. I will not be silent. America will not be silent.”

“Today, we must all say clearly and forcefully: antisemitism and all forms of hate and violence in this country, have no safe harbor in America, period,” Biden continued. “Evil will not win, hate will not prevail.”

 US President Joe Biden speaks to reporters about the release of WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner by Russia, as Vice President Kamala Harris and Cherelle Griner listen, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 8, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST) US President Joe Biden speaks to reporters about the release of WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner by Russia, as Vice President Kamala Harris and Cherelle Griner listen, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 8, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST)

During the event, Biden revealed a permanent White House Menorah that would be used in any official events. In the past, the White House used to borrow Menorah from different collections to be used in the event. “Like this White House menorah, our commitment to the safety of the Jewish people and the vibrancy of Jewish life [...] is permanent,” said Biden.

"Today, we must all say clearly and forcefully that antisemitism and all forms of hate and violence in this country have no safe harbor in America. Period."

President Joe Biden

2022 White House Hannukah Candle Lighting

First Lady Jill Biden said that the newly designed Menorah is “made of historic wood from the beams of this house, rescued when President Truman renovated this building.”

“Its hand-hammered silver cups are meant to magnify the glow of the candles, their beauty reminding us both the Hanukkah miracle and the joy it inspired. Each detail was carefully chosen and executed by our Executive Residence Carpenter Shop,” she said.

“Other menorahs have been borrowed before - beautiful, significant, and meaningful ones,” she said. “But the White House has never had its own menorah until now. It is now a cherished piece of this home, your home.”

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker led the candle lighting. Cytron-Walker, former Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, who was taken hostage in January together with members of his congregation in an armed attack on the synagogue.

"It was terrible, and it was terrifying, and we were able to get out alive," he said in his remarks.

"And that is the story of Hannukah. The story where the Jewish people suffered through oppression and pain and loss in war, and despite all the difficulties and all the struggle, we are here today to celebrate because against all odds Judaism has Endured,” said Cytron-Walker. “So, I'm celebrating Hannukah this year with such gratitude. It is so good to be here. It's so good to stand here.”

William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish organizations, who attended the event, told the Jerusalem Post following Biden’s remarks: “I think it is incredibly noteworthy at a time when Jews are under threat across America, that the President would focus his attention and focus the attention of the administration to combat the rise of antisemitism. Doing so here in the White House, the citadel of freedom and democracy makes it that much more important.”

Israel's Ambassador to the US, Mike Herzog, who participated at the event as well, tweeted later: "Thank you POTUS for welcoming us to the WhiteHouse Menorah Lighting ceremony. After 75 years of ties, Israel has no greater friend than the U.S. May we continue working together to strengthen our bipartisan ties and bring light to our two nations."