Statement by the Vice President in Support of the Solidarity Sabbath Initiative
My friend and mentor, Congressman Tom Lantos, often said that “the veneer of civilization is paper-thin. We are its guardians, and we can never rest.” Recent attacks targeting Jews in Brussels, Paris, Copenhagen – and even here at home – make clear that the danger of anti-Semitism is very much still with us. In too many places, outright anti-Semitism persists, and the denunciation of Jews has been excused as political critique. Too many leaders have lowered their voices or stood silent – or even chimed in – when confronted with bigotry and violence against Jewish communities in their midst.
Today, I lend my voice to support the Solidarity Sabbath – an initiative to mobilize leaders around the world to demonstrate their opposition to anti-Semitic bigotry and commitment to the security and survival of Jewish communities. In more than twenty countries, leaders, ambassadors and other government officials are attending services at local synagogues. This simple gesture sends a profound message to Jews around the world: you are not alone. People of all faiths in nations around the world stand united against hatred and in solidarity with you. That was also the message President Obama delivered earlier today at Congregation Adas Israel.
I learned the viciousness of anti-Semitism from two people, above all others: from my father, and from Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in the United States Congress. I traveled with Tom and his wife, Annette, across their native Hungary. Their chilling stories made personal for me the inhumanity of anti-Semitism and made palpable the violence of its warped perspective.
History teaches us that, left unchecked, anti-Semitism threatens not only the Jews it targets, but entire societies. “What a sad era,” Albert Einstein said, “when it is easier to smash an atom than a prejudice.” To those observing Solidarity Sabbath in countries around the world: Shabbat Shalom, a peaceful Sabbath to you.