White House hosts heritage month festivities

WASHINGTON (JTA) – President Obama hosted a reception at the White House for Jewish American Heritage Month.

The reception Tuesday was less formal than the inaugural one last year, with brief remarks and a small Marine Corps band playing klezmer music.

The 300 invitees included "grass-roots Jewish community leaders from across the country, rabbis, Members of Congress, and a broad range of leaders engaged in business, the arts, education, and public and community service," a White House official said.

Obama in delivering greetings noted the presence of Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace laureate and Holocaust memoirist; newly named Democratic National Committee chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who authored the legislation passed in 2006 initiating the heritage month; Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren; and Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

"The Jewish community in the United States has always stood for freedom, and that includes our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the State of Israel," he said.

The Maccabeats, an a cappella group launched at Yeshiva University, provided entertainment.

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