President Rivlin bids farewell in the US
President Rivlin bids farewell in the USHaim Zach (GPO)

Outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin held a meeting Sunday with representatives of the Jewish community in New York, upon his arrival for a farewell visit from US President Joe Biden.

The meeting was attended by Chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations Diane Lob; CEO of the Conference of Presidents William Daroff; Vice-Chair of the Conference of Presidents Malcolm Hoenlein; Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Federations of North America Mark Wilf; CEO of JFNA Eric Fingerhut; National Director Emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League Abe Foxman; President of Hadassah Rhoda Smolow; Chair of WIZO Evelyn Sommer; President of the Union for Reform Judaism Rabbi Rick Jacobs; CEO of Aish HaTorah Rabbi Steven Burg; Rabbi Arthur Schneier; Rabbi Marc Schneier; CEO of UJA-Federation of New York Eric Goldstein; and many others including Ambassador of Israel to the United States and to the United Nations Gilad Erdan and Leah Goldin, mother of missing IDF soldier Hadar Goldin, who is accompanying the President on his visit to New York.

At the beginning of his remarks, Rivlin spoke about the tragedy in Miami and the concern for the lives of the hundreds of those missing in the collapse of the apartment building there. He spoke of his prayers that survivors would be found, and said his heart grieves for the families who fear for the lives of their loved ones.

“Dear brothers and sisters, before addressing you today I would like to send my prayers, our deepest prayers, to the Jewish community of Florida and to all the American families who lost their loved ones in the horrible tragedy that took place in Surfside a few days ago. We pray, today, for the full recovery of all the wounded in this awful disaster,” he said.

Taking leave of the leadership of the community, thanking them for their partnership over many years, Rivlin said with a smile, “Even if we live many miles apart, across lands and nations, across parties and ideologies – we are family, mishpuche.”

“The long-lasting support of the Jewish world, and especially the American Jewish communities, for Israel, makes you an inherent part of the Israeli society, our fifth tribe,” he added.

The American Jewish community numbers some 7.5 million people and the major issues on which it is focused, following the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, are education, Jewish identity, health and economics, said its leaders.

Over recent years, there has been a steady increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States, leading to fatal attacks in the last three years in Pittsburgh, Jersey City, Poway and Munsey. In the ADL’s 2020 annual anti-Semitism report, the organization indicated a significant rise in anti-Semitic attacks, both physical and online and from both sides of the political map – left and right. According to the report, there were some 2,100 anti-Semitic incidents in the US last year, a rise of 12% on the previous year and the highest rate of anti-Semitism since systematic monitoring began in 1979.

In recent months, and particularly during Operation Guardian of the Walls, there has been a rise in public incidents of anti-Israel statements and of anti-Semitic attacks in New York, particularly in pro-Palestinian Authority demonstrations in the city.

“I know that President Biden and his administration are committed to combating this growing hate, and I promise you that the state of Israel will always stand in the forefront against anti-Semitism, in the US and all over the world,” Rivlin said.

He also spoke about the results of the elections held recently in Iran, saying that the decision to choose as president an extremist responsible for the deaths of thousands is further proof of the terrible danger which the Iranian regime poses to the Iranian people, to Israel, to the Middle East, and to the entire world.

“I intend to discuss these issues with President Biden during this visit,” he said, adding, “I know we might have some disagreements, but as always we will manage them, as friends always do.”

“The United States has always been the greatest friend and ally of Israel, and we will always be grateful for the consistent bipartisan support of all American administrations for the security of Israel and the wellbeing of its citizens,” he added.

At the end of his remarks, Rivlin thanked the heads of the organizations for their many years of cooperation with the President's Residence over his term of office and said that he is sure that it will continue into the term of president-elect Isaac Herzog.

Speaking on behalf of the heads of the community, Chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations Diane Lob thanked Rivlin for his work on behalf of Jewish communities around the world, saying: “Mr. President, over your term of office you strived to connect not only the Israeli people but also the global Jewish community to Israel, and this is how you will be remembered – as a man of connections. We are sure that your parting now is not one of ‘shalom – goodbye’ but of ‘lehitraot – until we meet again.’”

Deborah Isaac, Chair of the American Zionist Movement added, “On behalf of all Jewish organizations, I thank you for your support over the years and your close partnership with us, particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise, including here in the United States.”

CEO of UJA-Federation of New York Eric Goldstein summed up by saying: “We very much look forward to continuing to work with you, so we are saying lehitraot and not shalom.”

Israeli Ambassador to the United States and to the United Nations Gilad Erdan added: “My dear friend President Rivlin, over the seven years of your presidency you have brought together the communities of Israel and around the world. You stressed what we have in common and what brings us together, while paying attention to our heritage and shared values. Your legacy is a true expression of [Ze'ev] Jabotinsky’s vision – support and defense of the Jewish homeland and defense of the principle that ‘every person is a prince’, no matter who they are.”

Ambassador Erdan added, “As well as the immediate threats facing the Jewish people and the State of Israel – the Iranian nuclear threat and rising anti-Semitism, - there are other, long-term threats that we must relate to. First and foremost is the worrying decline in support for Israel from parts of American society, signs of which we saw during the recent operation in Gaza. That is a severe threat with long-term implications for the State of Israel and I am working to counter it.”

On Monday, Rivlin will meet with US President Joe Biden for a farewell meeting, and then hold a farewell meeting at Congress headed by Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi. Arutz Sheva is accompanying the visit.