June 2, 2015
Thank you for your letter. I was thrilled that your mom and dad could come to our Hanukkah reception last year, and I hope the next time they visit the White House you can join them.
There are a lot of reasons Michelle and I love celebrating Hanukkah at the White House each year. The latkes are certainly a big one! And I think that one of the things that makes America so special is the idea that no matter how people worship, or how large or small your community is, everyone’s religion deserves respect.
It’s also a chance to celebrate some of the ways that Jewish traditions and values have made America a better place. The story of the Exodus inspired Civil Rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jewish Americans have helped lead fights for civil rights, workers’ rights, and gay rights. Our shared values also helped forge our unbreakable friendship with Israel.
Of course, another Jewish value I admire is the idea of Tikkun Olam—repairing the world—and I’m proud of you for asking how you can do your part. There are many ways to help make our country a better place, but a good place to start is the commandment from the Torah that we should treat strangers with kindness, since we were strangers once, too. My hope for the next administration, and for all future leaders, is that that they never forget that simple yet profound ideal.
Repairing the world will never be easy, but your enthusiasm and your questions give me confidence that our future is in good hands. If we remain true to our values and traditions, we will be able to find the courage to keep asking tough questions and to answer them together.
I expect big things from you!