In honor of Jewish American Heritage month, the White House published correspondence between US President Barack Obama and a 10-year-old Jewish boy whose parents attended a Hanukkah celebration with the first family last year.
Yadid Frydman Orlow from White Plains, New York, wrote to Obama thanking him for inviting his parents to the reception before asking the president a number of thoughtful questions.
Along with asking Obama about his hopes for the future and race issues in the US, Orlow queried why the White House bothered holding a Hanukkah reception considering the small percentage of Jews in the US.
In the exchange, published Friday, Obama responded to Orlow by explaining that Jewish traditions and values have inspired American leaders and helped move the country forward.
“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,” the president wrote.
Obama said that the shared values helped form the “unbreakable” friendship with Israel.
Besides shared values, the president jokingly added that the prospect of having latkes — a traditional Hanukkah pancake — also contributed to the decision to mark the holiday.
Echoing his recent remarks at a Washington DC synagogue last month, Obama praised the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam — repairing the world — and said he was proud of Orlow for wanting to help his community.
Obama said that he hoped that successive administrations and future leaders would remember the Torah’s commandment to treat strangers with kindness.
“Repairing the world will never be easy, but your enthusiasm and your questions give me confidence that our future is in good hands,” Obama wrote, concluding: “I expect big things from you!”