ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Biden to host White House Hanukkah party in shadow of surging antisemitism

President, first lady, and VP’s Jewish husband Doug Emhoff to attend event, as US grapples with jump in anti-Jewish incidents since beginning of Israel-Hamas war

Doug Emhoff, husband of US Vice President Kamala Harris, speaks during the National Chanukah Menorah lighting, December 7, 2023, on the ellipse of the White House complex in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Doug Emhoff, husband of US Vice President Kamala Harris, speaks during the National Chanukah Menorah lighting, December 7, 2023, on the ellipse of the White House complex in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

US President Joe Biden is set to host a White House reception Monday to mark Hanukkah, celebrating the holiday as he continues to denounce rising antisemitism in the United States and abroad amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

The president, first lady Jill Biden, and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will attend the reception. Hanukkah continues through Friday.

The Biden administration in May announced what it called the first-ever national strategy to counter antisemitism. That laid out more than 100 actions, including a series of steps to raise awareness and understanding of antisemitism and the threat it poses around the US.

Still, antisemitism has only intensified in some quarters since the devastating October 7 onslaught, when Hamas-led terrorists rampaged through southern communities, murdering 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped some 240 to the Gaza Strip. Israel then launched a military offensive aimed at eliminating Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007

The operation faces heightened criticism for the mounting Palestinian death toll. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of an impending “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza and urged its members to demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

The Biden administration supported a since-expired, temporary pause in the fighting as Hamas released some of the hostages it held in Gaza, and is pushing for another truce — but the fighting continues in the meantime.

File: US President Joe Biden in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023 (Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

The husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, Emhoff is the first Jewish person to be the spouse of one of the country’s nationally elected leaders. Last week, he presided over the lighting ceremony of a massive menorah in front of the White House to mark Hanukkah’s first night, saying that American Jews are “feeling alone” and “in pain.”

On Saturday, Liz Magill, the president of the University of Pennsylvania, resigned amid pressure from donors and criticism over testimony at a congressional hearing where she was unable to say under repeated questioning that calls on campus for the genocide of Jews would violate the school’s conduct policy.

Universities across the US have been accused of failing to protect Jewish students amid rising fears of antisemitism worldwide and fallout from the war in Gaza.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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