President Barack H. Obama issued the first ever Presidential Rosh HaShanah video greeting Friday. Obama read a short (2:37) message of holiday well-wishes, and injected an allusion to his plans for peace in the Middle East. Obama looked slightly less buoyant than he did in the initial months of his presidency – a possible reflection of the problems his peace initiative has run into.
Obama is currently trying hard to engineer a three-way summit with Israeli leader Binyamin Netanyahu and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas at the upcoming United Nations assembly, but even that symbolic feat is still in doubt. He opened the video statement with an attempt to evoke a conciliatory spirit.
"[T]his sacred time provides not just an opportunity for individual renewal and reconciliation, but for families, communities and even nations to heal old divisions, seek new understandings, and come together to build a better world for our children and grandchildren,” he said.
"At the dawn of this New Year, let us rededicate ourselves to that work. Let us reject the impulse to harden ourselves to others’ suffering, and instead make a habit of empathy – of recognizing ourselves in each other and extending our compassion to those in need.
A call to worship freely
"Let us resist prejudice, intolerance, and indifference in whatever forms they may take -- let us stand up strongly to the scourge of anti-Semitism, which is still prevalent in far too many corners of our world.
"Let us work to extend the rights and freedoms so many of us enjoy to all the world’s citizens – to speak and worship freely; to live free from violence and oppression; to make of our lives what we will.
“And let us work to achieve lasting peace and security for the state of Israel, so that the Jewish state is fully accepted by its neighbors, and its children can live their dreams free from fear. That is why my Administration is actively pursuing the lasting peace that has eluded Israel and its Arab neighbors for so long.
“Throughout history, the Jewish people have been, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, 'a light unto the nations.' Through an abiding commitment to faith, family and justice, Jews have overcome extraordinary adversity, holding fast to the hope of a better tomorrow.
“In this season of renewal, we celebrate that spirit; we honor a great and ancient faith; and we rededicate ourselves to the work of repairing this world.
“Michelle and I wish all who celebrate Rosh HaShanah a healthy, peaceful and sweet New Year.”
Obama's 2009 Rosh HaShanah message is not very different from the one he delivered last year, when he was still a candidate for President, which included the lines: “As families come together to mark the High Holy Days, upholding a proud Jewish tradition, let us all rededicate ourselves to the task of repairing this world for our children and grandchildren, and to working to achieve peace and security for Israel."