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Obama Holds Reception for Jewish American Heritage Month

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U.S. President Obama held a reception Thursday at the White House in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month.  Among those attending were Jews from all walks of life including national and local politicians, entrepreneurs and Olympic athletes.

"The diversity of talents and accomplishments represented in this room underscores the vast contributions that Jewish Americans have made to this country," said the president. "Of course, it’s impossible to separate the achievements of Jewish Americans from the struggles of Jewish people around the world. Even before we were a nation, we were a sanctuary for Jews seeking to live without the specter of violence or exile."

"That’s what drew a band of 23 Jewish refugees to a place called New Amsterdam more than 350 years ago.  That’s what brought Jewish immigrants fleeing pogroms on a long journey to America in the last turn of the century.  And that’s what led Holocaust survivors and Jews trapped behind the Iron Curtain to travel to these shores to rebuild their lives," he added.

Mr. Obama also said, "as Jews sought freedom and opportunity in America, these waves of immigrants and generations that followed have helped to make America what it is."  He also noted that the U.S., along with many countries, is struggling with a number of issues which are challenging citizens. The President said that it is his duty and the duty of all American leaders to make life better for one another and that he will strive everyday to assure this.

Mr. Obama said that efforts are bolstered by the work of so many Jewish organizations that help the sick and educate our children and provide assistance to seniors and others in need. "But our responsibility doesn’t end at the water’s edge," he added.

The U.S. president said his administration is renewing American leadership around the world. "Strengthening old alliances and forging new ones, defending universal values while ensuring that we uphold our values here at home.  In fact, it’s our common values that leads us to stand with allies and friends, including the state of Israel.  That’s why, even as we never waver in pursuing peace -- that happens to me all the time," he said.

"That is why even as we never waver in pursuing peace between Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs, our bond with Israel is unbreakable. It is the bond of two peoples that share a commitment to a common set of ideals:  opportunity, democracy and freedom," he continued.

President Obama said everyone at the White House reception "stands at the end of an unbroken chain of perserverance and a conviction that a better future is possible."  He said it is a lesson not only for Jewish Americans but for all Americans and ultimately that is what is being celebrated during Jewish American Heritage Month.

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