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Biden to host a diverse group of Jewish leaders at first Rosh Hashanah White House reception

The gathering, limited in size, will continue an annual tradition that Biden began as vice president at his official residence

The White House sent out invitations Monday for an in-person High Holidays reception with President Joe Biden, and aimed for the event to be inclusive of women and people of color.  The gathering, the first such since he won the presidential election, will continue a tradition that Biden began as vice president at his official residence at the Naval Observatory in Northwest Washington.

Similar to the White House Hanukkah reception earlier this year, which hosted fewer people than in the past due to the pandemic, the Sept. 30 event — which falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur — will be intimate and highly diverse, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the White House planning.

The guest list of congregational rabbis and Jewish leaders includes more gender, racial and denominational diversity than those for past White House Jewish receptions hosted by either Biden or former President Donald Trump, according to a brief Forward survey among regular White House invitees.

President Joe Biden in a virtual event with rabbis to commemorate the Jewish High Holidays on Sept. 2, 2021. Photo by Adam Schultz, White House photographer

The gathering is organized by Shelley Greenspan, the administration’s liaison to the American Jewish community, who was appointed to the role in July. Greenspan has worked with several Jewish women groups and last year helped found the Jewish Democratic Women for Action, a political organization that supports the agenda of Biden’s and Vice President Kamala Harris’ administration. She was previously a board member of the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Women International.

Greenspan and the White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Jewish Insider first reported on the event. 

Greenspan is the first woman in two decades to serve as the Jewish liaison, who is charged to maintain relations with the American Jewish community. Susan Sher, chief of staff to then-first lady Michelle Obama, and Danielle Borrin, staffer to then-Vice President Joe Biden, assisted with Jewish outreach in the first two years of the Obama administration.

Last year Biden hosted a Zoom call with rabbis and Jewish leaders, which was livestreamed for the public. In his remarks, Biden apologized for not holding his traditional Rosh Hashanah reception since he moved to the White House due to COVID-19 restrictions. “Next year, I hope,” he said. “Not only next year in Jerusalem, but next year at the White House, God willing.”


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