White House Response to Canceled Hanukkah Celebrations Sparks Fury

By Newsweek
Posted on 12/07/23 | News Source: Newsweek

The White House has faced backlash over its response to cancellations of public celebrations of Hanukkah.

Speaking during a briefing earlier today, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean Pierre said "every action" had been taken in attempting to make sure the Jewish community feels safe amid an uptick in antisemitism and cancellations of Hanukkah celebrations in the U.S. She added: "We have seen an uptick in hate, just more broadly, in different communities—obviously, also in the Muslim community. And so, we will do everything that we can to make sure that these communities feel safe."

The response caused some ire on social media and criticism that Jean-Pierre criticized the rise in Islamophobia in response to a question about antisemitism.

Referring to the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7, Jean-Pierre said: "Obviously, over the past couple of weeks since this—certainly since this war started, we have seen the increase of antisemitism. You know, we understand the fear that people in the Jewish community must be feeling right now, which is why we have taken action to do everything that we can to make sure that people in that community feel protected. And so, that's what we're going to continue to do."

Currently, the White House has not revealed its plans to mark Hanukkah this year. Newsweek has approached the White House for further comment.

In March this year, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said levels of antisemitism in the US were already at record highs since it began recording them in 1979. Incidents of vandalism, harassment and assault increased by nearly a third in 2022.

The White House isn't alone in feeling the backlash from the decision to cancel Hanukkah celebrations. There was an outcry in Virginia this week when a Hanukkah celebration was canceled. A ceremonial lighting of a menorah was due to take place at the 2nd Sundays Art and Music Festival in Williamsburg, Virginia, but it was canceled by the festival founder because it felt "inappropriate" due to the ongoing situation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Over 1,400 people were killed by Hamas during an attack on Israel on October 7 and a brutal response by the Israeli military followed. The Health Ministry in Gaza has said around 15,890 have been killed in the region since October 7—this figure does not split civilian deaths apart from members of militant groups.