Attorney General Merrick Garland marked the first night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah with a call for Americans to come together to oppose a “disturbing” rise in anti-Semitism and other acts of bigotry.
At this year’s National Hanukkah Menorah lighting, an annual event sponsored by the American Friends of Lubavitch at the White House Ellipse, Garland, who is Jewish, gave his remarks a personal edge by sharing his family’s harrowing story of escaping the Holocaust in Europe and finding refuge in the United States. Living without fear of persecution under the protection of the law “is what distinguishes America from so many other countries,” Garland said.
As attorney general, he vowed, “I will never stop working to guarantee that protection to everyone in our country. All of us at the Department of Justice will never stop working to confront and combat violence and other unlawful acts fueled by hate. That is our legal obligation. But now more than ever, all Americans have a moral obligation to stand up against such hate. Together, we must stand up against the disturbing rise in anti-Semitism and together we must stand up against bigotry in any of its forms. Our democracy depends on it.”
Garland’s message about anti-Semitism follows that of FBI Director Christopher Wray, who said last month that anti-Semitism remains “a pervasive and present fact” that threatens Jewish communities. Wray said this on the same day a man was arrested in connection to what the FBI warned was a “credible” threat to New Jersey synagogues.
The Anti-Defamation League published a report in April, saying the group received 2,717 reports of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2021, a 34% increase from 2020 and the highest number since ADL began tracking them.
Building upon Wray’s vow to protect Jewish communities against threats, Garland said the Justice Department’s “mission is to uphold the rule of law, to keep our country safe, and to protect the civil rights of everyone in this country,”
At the close of his remarks, before the lighting of the giant menorah on the Ellipse, Garland again gave his message a personal touch.
“As a descendant of those who fled persecution because they were Jewish, it is especially meaningful to be here tonight as we light this menorah in our nation’s capital and under the protection of its laws,” Garland said. “May we never stop working to ensure that Americans will always be able to gather today as we are doing tonight to light the Menorah.”