Berkeley rabbi brimming with pride after White House event

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When the president of the United States requests your presence, you RSVP in the affirmative.

That’s how it went down for Rabbi Menachem Creditor of Berkeley’s Congregation Netivot Shalom. He and his wife, Liz, were among the fortunate invitees to attend White House ceremonies this week marking Jewish American Heritage Month.

Taking place on May 17, the event began with a community leaders’ briefing in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The Creditors joined 200 other Jewish community leaders for a series of presentations from administration officials, including Dan Shapiro, senior director of Middle East affairs with the National Security Council.

Creditor said the speakers gave “a clear statement of the unbreakable bond with Israel, security cooperation and the deep commitment the Jewish community has shown historically for the American dream.”

Following the briefing, the throng — which also included members of Congress, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, two Supreme Court justices and leaders from all streams of American Judaism — filed into the East Room for a concert by the Maccabeats and the main event: a speech from President Barack Obama.

“Jewish Americans have always stood up for freedom and democracy around the world,” Obama said in his remarks, “and that includes our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the State of Israel.”

He also praised the Jewish community for its contributions “often in the face of unspeakable discrimination and adversity. For hundreds of years, Jewish Americans have fought heroically in battle and inspired us to pursue peace. They’ve built our cities, cured our sick. They’ve paved the way in the sciences and the law, in our politics and in the arts.”

President Barack Obama greets Elie Wiesel during a reception in honor of Jewish American History Month in the East Room of the White House. photo/the white house/pete souza

Creditor said afterward, “My heart was brimming with pride. He spoke plainly, but what was most impressive was he was purely human. He spoke as he would to anyone about their story.”

Now back in the Bay Area, Creditor thinks the day’s events will have some lasting impact.

“The symbolism of the White House and the president has lasting power in the Jewish narrative,” he said. “The American Jewish people have always ached for the kind of recognition that will never become commonplace, but has become regular. We have every obligation to care about the welfare of the United States, and the United States has in turn gone to great lengths to reassure the Jewish people.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.