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Biden condemns rising antisemitism in U.S. at Hanukkah reception

The president will say silence is complicity amid rising antisemitic attacks nationwide and around the world.

President Joe Biden issued a strong condemnation of emboldened antisemitism in the U.S. and around the world during a Hanukkah reception at the White House on Monday.

“Silence is complicity," Biden said in remarks at the event Monday night, referring to rising antisemitism. "I will not be silent. America will not be silent.”

Biden also forcefully emphasized that all forms of hate, antisemitism and violence have no place in America.

The president hosted the event with first lady Jill Biden, which included a blessing and a menorah lighting.

The Bidens also marked a new tradition by adding the first menorah to the White House collection. The menorah, created by the White House carpentry shop, is the first Jewish artifact to be included in the White House archives, according to a White House official.

Participants in the program included Bronia Brandman, a Holocaust survivor and retired public school teacher who met with the president this year to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day; Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of Temple Emanuel in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; ambassador Michele Taylor, daughter and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors who serves as U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council; and Avigael Heschel-Aronson, the granddaughter of Jewish theologian Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who died 50 years ago.

The event comes amid the president’s efforts to address antisemitic incidents, which have been on the rise in the U.S. Assault, harassment and vandalism targeting Jews have increased to their highest levels in more than four decades, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Last week, Biden formed a new interagency group to develop a national strategy to combat antisemitism. The president also called out “political leaders” who have not strongly denounced antisemitism, saying that their “silence is complicity,” in comments earlier this month.

“I just want to make a few things clear: The Holocaust happened. Hitler was a demonic figure," Biden wrote on Twitter. "And instead of giving it a platform, our political leaders should be calling out and rejecting antisemitism wherever it hides. Silence is complicity."

Biden’s recent actions came in the wake of former President Donald Trump hosting white nationalist and antisemite Nick Fuentes and Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West who has come under fire for recent antisemitic remarks, at his Mar-a-Lago resort last month. 

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff, called for more people to publicly denounce “vile” speech and violent acts directed against Jews during a roundtable discussion on antisemitism this month.

“Antisemitism is dangerous,” said Emhoff, the country’s first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president. “We cannot normalize this. We all have an obligation to condemn these vile acts.”

On Sunday, the first night of Hanukkah, Vice President Kamala Harris and Emhoff lit a menorah, which is on loan from the Jewish Museum in New York, a White House official said. The menorah, made in Eastern Europe around the late 19th to early 20th century, bears a Hebrew inscription indicating that it was dedicated to a mutual aid society that provided aid to members of the Jewish community in Eastern Europe and to those who immigrated to the United States, the official said.