Shanah Tovah from the White House! This evening, Jewish communities in the United States and around the world will begin celebrating Rosh Hashanah. The High Holidays are a time of introspection and prayer, a moment to reflect on the past and offer hope for the future.
This year, Rosh Hashanah comes at a particular difficult time for many across the globe as we mourn the loss of former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres. President Peres was an inspiring force for peace and, as President Obama reminded us at his memorial service last week, he embodied “that faith, that optimism, that belief– even when all the evidence is to the contrary -- that tomorrow can be better.”
Earlier last week, leading up to the last Rosh Hashanah of his Presidency, President Obama spoke to hundreds of rabbis nationwide in his annual pre-Rosh Hashanah conference call. And today, hours before the Jewish New Year starts, here is President Obama’s eighth and final Rosh Hashanah video greeting. In this 2016 message, the President extends his warmest wishes to you all for a sweet year full of hope, health, and happiness.
Read the transcript:
Shalom everybody, and Shana Tova. As they have for thousands of years, the High Holidays mark the beginning of a season of renewal – and also of reflection. An opportunity to start over, as well as an obligation to look back with humility.
From the moment the Book of Life is opened on Rosh Hashanah until the gates are closed at the end of Yom Kippur, Jews in the United States, Israel, and around the world will ask family, friends, and neighbors for that which only they can give: forgiveness for the ways we’ve all fallen short. It’s also a time to ask God for that which only He can give: His compassion and mercy, and His will to inscribe us for a good year.
Just as important, the Days of Awe are a time to ask of ourselves something only we can control: the strength to do better. To be better. To make the world we live in a kinder, more peaceful place. To hear in the sacred shofar blast a call from within to change.
For me personally, my last Rosh Hashanah in the White House is a chance to reflect on the great privilege I’ve had as President to work closely with the Jewish community. To speak at synagogues here in the United States and abroad. To place a private prayer in the ancient cracks of the Kotel. To retell the timeless story of the Exodus at our annual White House Seders. And to walk through Buchenwald with Elie Wiesel, meet with young Israelis in Jerusalem, and present the Medal of Freedom to Shimon Peres.
While we have accomplished much together in the last seven and a half years, much work remains – as it always does. But that’s what the Jewish New Year reminds us: that our job is never done. It’s an honor for my family to wish yours another sweet year full of hope, health, and happiness. Shanah Tovah!