WASHINGTON (JTA) — During a closely-watched press conference with Ukraine’s Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelensky, US President Joe Biden brought up the Hanukkah story, comparing Ukraine’s struggle against Russia to the Maccabees’ uprising.
“Tonight is the fourth night of Hanukkah,” Biden said Wednesday standing next to Zelensky, who was on a last-minute visit to Washington to speak to Congress and appeal for the approval of more assistance for Ukraine. It was Zelensky’s first foreign trip since the start of Russia’s invasion in February.
“A time when Jewish people around the world, President Zelensky and many families among them, honor the timeless miracle of a small band of warriors fighting for the values and their freedom against a much larger foe and how they endured and how they overcame,” Biden continued. “How the flame of faith with only enough oil for one day burned brightly for eight days. The story of survival and resilience that reminds us on the coldest day of the year, that light will always prevail over darkness.”
The Biden administration has had a number of Hanukkah celebrations this year, using them as a platform to denounce antisemitism.
Biden, along with Democrats in Congress and a number of Senate Republicans, wants to pass a $1.7 trillion spending bill before Congress adjourns at the end of the year, fearing that once Republicans assume leadership of the US House of Representatives they will stymy spending. Among the expenditures opposed by House Republicans is $45 billion earmarked for Ukraine.
The $1.7 trillion package unveiled this week also includes $3.8 billion in defense assistance for Israel and $305 million for security grants for nonprofits, an increase from $180 million. Jewish groups lobbied for the increase in nonprofit assistance, saying it was needed in the wake of a perceived increase in violent antisemitic attacks.