Prominent members of the American Jewish community gathered on Sunday in New York City to honor Israel's outgoing president, Reuven Rivlin, who concludes his seven-year term as president on July 9.
In addition to highlighting the bonds between Israel and the Jewish community in the United States, the New York event reflected the concern over rising antisemitism and anti-Israeli sentiment in the United States.
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“I know that President [Joe] Biden and his administration are committed to combating this growing hate, and I promise you that the State of Israel will always stand at the forefront against antisemitism, in the U.S. and all over the world,” Rivlin told the audience.
The demonization of Israel, he said, is highly dangerous. As a democracy, criticism of Israeli policy is legitimate, but it needs to be based on knowledge and a readiness to hear the other side, the Israeli president remarked.
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RIvlin went on to say that “The United States has always been the greatest friend and ally of Israel, and we will always be grateful for the consistent bipartisan support of all American administrations for the security of Israel and the well-being of its citizens."
The outgoing Israeli president's visit to the United States includes a meeting at the White House with Biden on Monday.
Referring to the American Jewish community's ties to Israel, the Israeli president quipped: "The long-lasting support of the Jewish world, and especially the American Jewish communities, for Israel, makes you an inherent part of the Israeli society, our fifth tribe." He said, "Even if we live many miles apart, across lands and nations, across parties and ideologies, we are family."
Rivlin also addressed the ongoing rescue efforts in the Miami-area community of Surfside, where, in addition to the confirmed fatalities, well over 100 people are still missing following last week's collapse of an apartment building.
“I would like to send my prayers, our deepest prayers, to the Jewish community of Florida and to all the American families who lost their loved ones in the horrible tragedy," he said.
Rivlin concluded his remarks by saying that he is convinced the close cooperation between the Israeli president and the American Jewish community will continue under his successor, Isaac Herzog.
Speaking at the event on behalf of the American Jewish leadership, Dianne Lob, who chairs the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations, spoke of the importance of efforts to generate bipartisan support for Israel.
Addressing Rivlin, Lob said: "Mr. President, over your term in office, you strived to connect not only the Israeli people but also the global Jewish community to Israel, and this is how you will be remembered – as a man of connections. We are sure that your parting now is not one of ‘shalom – goodbye’ but of ‘lehitraot – until we meet again.’"