This week marks Rosh Hashanah and the start of the High Holy Days for millions of Jews around the globe. It also marks the last time President Obama will deliver Rosh Hashanah greetings from the White House to those celebrating.
In a video published by the White House on Sunday, Obama wished Jews a happy new year and reflected on his work with the Jewish community over his two terms as president.
“For me personally, my last Rosh Hashanah in the White House is a chance to reflect on the great privilege I’ve had as president to work closely with the Jewish community,” he said.
The president reminisced about celebrating Passover seders in the White House, visiting the Buchenwald concentration camp with Elie Wiesel in 2009, presenting the Medal of Freedom to Shimon Peres in 2012, and more.
“While we have accomplished much together in the last seven and a half years, much work remains – as it always does,” he continued. “But that’s what the Jewish New Year reminds us: that our job is never done.”
Obama’s sentiments echo the holiday’s spirit of reflection, as many Jews observe the transition into a new year. The holiday marks the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days, or Yamim Noraim (the “Days of Awe“), and is followed 10 days later by Yom Kippur, the “day of atonement.” During this time, many Jews will reflect on the previous year, ask for forgiveness from God and from the people in their lives, and set intentions for the year to come.
“The Days of Awe are a time...to hear in the sacred shofar blast a call from within to change,” Obama said.
Read President Obama’s full Rosh Hashanah greeting below or watch the video of his address above.
Shalom everybody, and Shana Tova. As they have for thousands of years, the High Holidays mark the beginning of a season of renewal – and also of reflection. An opportunity to start over, as well as an obligation to look back with humility.
From the moment the Book of Life is opened on Rosh Hashanah until the gates are closed at the end of Yom Kippur, Jews in the United States, Israel, and around the world will ask family, friends, and neighbors for that which only they can give: forgiveness for the ways we’ve all fallen short. It’s also a time to ask God for that which only He can give: His compassion and mercy, and His will to inscribe us for a good year.
Just as important, the Days of Awe are a time to ask of ourselves something only we can control: the strength to do better. To be better. To make the world we live in a kinder, more peaceful place. To hear in the sacred shofar blast a call from within to change.
For me personally, my last Rosh Hashanah in the White House is a chance to reflect on the great privilege I’ve had as President to work closely with the Jewish community. To speak at synagogues here in the United States and abroad. To place a private prayer in the ancient cracks of the Kotel. To retell the timeless story of the Exodus at our annual White House Seders. And to walk through Buchenwald with Elie Wiesel, meet with young Israelis in Jerusalem, and present the Medal of Freedom to Shimon Peres.
While we have accomplished much together in the last seven and a half years, much work remains – as it always does. But that’s what the Jewish New Year reminds us: that our job is never done. It’s an honor for my family to wish yours another sweet year full of hope, health, and happiness. Shanah Tovah!