World Briefs: Biden to host first-ever White House Rosh Hashanah party and more


Biden to host first-ever White House Rosh Hashanah party
U.S. President Joe Biden is bringing a Jewish High Holiday celebration to the White House for the first time, JTA reported.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks before a menorah-lighting ceremony in celebration of Chanukah in the East Room of the White House on Dec. 1, 2021. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images via

His White House is hosting a Rosh Hashanah reception on Sept. 30, Jewish Insider reported.

As vice president during the 2009-2017 Obama administration, Biden hosted Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot receptions at the Naval Observatory, the official vice-presidential residence, the first vice president to do so.

President Bill Clinton was the first president to host a Chanukah party for staff, and President George W. Bush made it a public event for Jewish community leaders, a practice continued by President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump. Obama instituted White House Passover seders, a practice Trump did not continue, although on at least one occasion, Jewish staffers gathered in the adjacent Eisenhower Executive Office Building for a seder.

London’s Holocaust Memorial Garden clears Queen Elizabeth tributes left on its grounds
As Britons poured out their sadness over the death of their 70-year queen, they deposited tributes to her all over London, including at a garden designated for memorializing victims of the Holocaust, JTA reported.

Grace Dean, a reporter for Business Insider in London, tweeted on Sept. 18 that the Holocaust Memorial Garden in Hyde Park, not far from Buckingham Palace, had turned into “a makeshift Queen Memorial Garden.” She posted pictures showing bouquets, letters and even pictures of Queen Elizabeth II strewn across the boulders that make up the heart of the Holocaust garden, which was dedicated with fanfare in 1983.

The post quickly elicited expressions of anger and distress that mourning for the queen, who died last week at 96, would usurp mourning for the 6 million Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide during the Holocaust. Some Twitter users called the display a “desecration.”

On Sept. 19, as London prepared for the queen’s funeral, the official account of the Royal Parks, the charity that manages eight parks on royal grounds, tweeted that the items were being removed.

101-year-old is oldest to make aliyah from US in five years
A 101-year-old woman who made aliyah from New Jersey in mid-September is the oldest immigrant to move to the Jewish state from the United States in the last five years, reported.

Stella Rockoff was born in Jerusalem in 1921 during the British Mandate of Palestine. Her family immigrated to Brooklyn, N.Y., when she was 5 and she moved to Pennsylvania after she married Rabbi Herman Rockoff in 1940. She later lived again in New York with her husband and four children, where she worked as executive secretary of the Rabbinical Council of America.

She lived in Clifton, N.J., before moving back to Israel with a daughter and son-in-law as part of a group of nearly 60 olim (“new immigrants”) from North America.

“All my life I dreamed of returning to my native country,” said Rockoff. “This is a day of celebration for me. My family left at a time when ‘the Jewish state’ was just an idea, an idea that has since become the state of Israel, now a strong nation and a leader in innovation, and I am proud to finally call it home. I can’t wait to be reunited with my many grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and two more great-great-grandchildren in my old-new home.”

Central Bureau of Statistics: Israel’s population nears 10 million
The population of Israel is just over 9.5 million people ahead of the Jewish New Year, according to data issued by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, reported.

The country has a population of 9.593 million people, according to the CBS. Of them, 7.069 million (74%) identify as Jewish, 2.026 million (21%) as Arab and 498,000 (5%) as neither.

The bureau states that the Israeli population will reach 10 million by 2024, 15 million by 2048 and 20 million by 2065.

Jews in Israel who are at least 20 are identified as 45.3% secular, 19.2% traditional, 13.9% traditional-religious, 10.7% religious and 10.5% Haredi.

According to the data, 177,000 babies were born in Israel this year, 49,000 people made aliyah and 2,000 Israelis returned to Israel after living abroad.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey speaks at the official opening ceremony of Istanbul’s new airport on Oct. 29, 2018. (Burak Kara/Getty Images via

Turkish president tells group of U.S. Jewish leaders he plans to visit Israel
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a group of Jewish leaders that he planned to visit Israel, the clearest sign so far that he is intent on resetting a long-troubled relationship, JTA reported.

Erdogan also told a room full of leaders of American Jewish organizations that antisemitism is a “crime against humanity,” a meeting participant said. The June 19 meeting, convened under the auspices of the Turkish embassy and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, took place in New York City.

Erdogan did not say when he would visit.

Turkey and Israel last month announced that they planned to restore full diplomatic ties, which have been ruptured since 2010, when Israel carried out a deadly raid on a Turkish vessel attempting to breach an Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited Turkey in March and Prime Minister Yair Lapid did likewise in June.

— Compiled by Andy Gotlieb

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