Jill Biden pays tribute to Jonathan Sacks at yeshiva fundraiser in Detroit

First Lady Jill Biden quoted one of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writings during a yeshiva fundraiser in Detroit.

US first lady Jill Biden delivers remarks at Des Moines Area Community College, Ankeny Campus, in Ankeny (photo credit: EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/POOL/REUTERS)
US first lady Jill Biden delivers remarks at Des Moines Area Community College, Ankeny Campus, in Ankeny
(photo credit: EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/POOL/REUTERS)

(JTA) — First Lady Jill Biden gave the keynote speech Sunday at the Yeshiva Beth Yehudah annual fundraiser dinner in Detroit, a gala that consistently features American presidents, other prominent politicians and thousands of local Jews.

In her speech, Biden paid tribute to the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Britain and public intellectual who died a year ago.

“He once wrote, ‘God does not ask us to save the world — entirely and alone. Instead God asks us to do what we can, when we can. We mend the world one life at a time, one act at a time, one day at a time,'” Biden said, according to Jewish Insider.

The dinner’s past in-person guests, who are sometimes surprise announcements, have included leaders from both parties, such as President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, presidential nominee John McCain and Secretary of State John Kerry.

RABBI JONATHAN SACKS laughs during a news conference in London after being awarded the 2016 Templeton Prize, on March 2, 2016. (credit: PAUL HACKETT/REUTERS)RABBI JONATHAN SACKS laughs during a news conference in London after being awarded the 2016 Templeton Prize, on March 2, 2016. (credit: PAUL HACKETT/REUTERS)

Last year, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and just weeks before the election, both President Donald Trump and then-nominee Joe Biden sent in video messages to the virtual event. Biden also attended the fundraiser in 2011, when he was Vice President.

The Biden White House said the first lady was invited to speak by Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow. This year’s fundraiser also honored General Motors CEO Mary Barra.

Yeshiva Beth Yehudah, located in Oak Park, is Michigan’s oldest and largest Jewish school, founded in 1914 and currently enrolling around 1,000 students. It has seen heavy growth, building three major additions to its campus over the last decade.