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Biden, in Rosh Hashanah greeting, calls for change: ‘Got to be a better year’

In message, Democratic Presidential challenger emphasizes holiday’s themes of renewal, his commitment to Jewish values

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his wife Jill speak to Jewish supporters in a Rosh Hashanah video conference call on September 17, 2020. (Screen capture/Biden-Harris campaign via JTA)
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his wife Jill speak to Jewish supporters in a Rosh Hashanah video conference call on September 17, 2020. (Screen capture/Biden-Harris campaign via JTA)

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, greeted Jewish supporters ahead of Rosh Hashanah on Thursday, using the holiday message as an opportunity to call to remove US President Donald Trump from office.

It was the second time a Jewish New Year greeting turned into a presidential candidacy pitch in as many days. Trump made his own appeal Wednesday during a call to Jewish supporters from the White House.

Contrary to Trump, who used the call to highlight his support for Israel as president, Biden only mentioned the Jewish state once during his seven minute message, which instead focused on the Rosh Hashanah themes of renewal and reflection, along with his broader commitment to advancing Jewish values from the White House.

“These are the Days of Awe that give us a chance to restart, to speak up,” Biden said in a webcast organized by Jewish Americans for Biden, an arm of his campaign. “What kind of country do we wish to be? Both of our faiths, yours and mine, instruct us not to ignore what’s around us.”

Biden recalled a lesson his father instilled in him when he was a child — that “silence is complicity” — which he said helped him understand the vow that “never again” should a genocide like the Holocaust be allowed to occur.

He said during the call that he took his children and grandchildren to visit Nazi concentration camps when they were old enough “to understand that you have to speak up.”

Biden, a Roman Catholic, noted the unremitting coronavirus outbreak in the US, the ongoing social unrest over racism, and the battered economy.

“A common thread between them is a president who makes things worse, who appeals to the dark side of us,” Biden said.

As he has often done in events with Jewish supporters, Biden highlighted how he decided to run after watching footage of neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville in 2017, and being appalled at what he said were Trump’s equivocations in condemning racist and anti-Semitic violence.

Biden’s wife, Jill, an educator, quoted the 19th-century rabbi, Yisrael Salanter, who founded the Musar Jewish ethical movement.

“As Rabbi Yisrael Salanter taught, ‘as long as the candle is still burning, it is still possible to accomplish and to mend,'” she said. “I hope these days of awe renew your spirit for these days ahead.”

In his lone mention of Israel in his address, Joe Biden said, “We can pursue peace in the world, including by remaining a steadfast ally of Israel.”

Throughout the campaign, Biden has pushed back at progressives within the Democratic party who are more critical of Israel.

He concluded Thursday’s call by wishing viewers a “good year” in Hebrew.

“Shanah tovah. Get it done. We can do this. It’s got to be a better year than last year,” he said.

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