A day after a machete-wielding man injured several people at a Hanukkah celebration in New York, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took part in a menorah-lighting ceremony at an ice-skating rink in Iowa to mark the eighth and last night of the Jewish festival.
Addressing a small crowd of several dozen supporters on Sunday, Sanders, who is Jewish, reflected on how his own family had fled religious persecution and sought refuge in the United States.
“My father came to this country at the age of 17 from Poland,” Sanders told those gathered at the Des Moines event. “He came to this country fleeing anti-Semitism and fleeing violence and fleeing terrible, terrible poverty.”
His dad “never made a lot of money, but he was able to live a quality of life and was able to raise his kids in a way that he never could have done where he came from,” Sanders continued, adding: “And that’s the story of millions of people [in America].”
The 2020 presidential contender, who lit a large menorah during the ceremony, urged all Americans to reject bigotry and hate.
“What makes our country great is that people have come from every corner of the world to live in peace and with justice here in the United States of America,” he said.
“What makes this country great is our diversity and our willingness to work and live together, regardless of the color of our skin or our religion or where we come from,” he later added.
On Saturday night, five people were injured during a stabbing attack at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York. Officials said the attack was the 13th anti-Semitic incident to plague New York state in the past few weeks.
Expressing outrage at the Monsey attack, Sanders said earlier on Sunday that “we must confront this surge” of violence and bigotry.
“We must confront this surge of anti-Semitic violence, prioritize the fight against bigotry, and bring people together — instead of dividing people up,” he said.