Joe Biden
Joe BidenREUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

US President Joe Biden held an official White House reception for Jewish leaders on Friday to celebrate the High Holidays.

He caused a lot of laughter in the audience when he joked with the leaders and said, "I probably went to synagogue more than many of you." Biden told how he used to go to the synagogue of the Beit Shalom congregation in Wilmington, Delaware, where he grew up

"I received my education in this synagogue as well. I am indeed Catholic, but I would go to the synagogue on Saturday and to church on Sunday," he added. Despite the laughter of the audience it was clear that this time he was serious.

"Over the years, we have shared deep conversations about faith and finding purpose. This synagogue and its community have been by my family's side both in good times and in the not-so-good times," Biden noted.

The President said that anti-Semitism is a sick evil that is not acceptable to him in any way. "My father was not Jewish, but he always said that 'silence is complicity.'"

"Jewish tradition states that from the moment the Book of Life is opened on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) until the gates of prayer are closed on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), our fate hangs in the balance. It is in our hands and we can change, do better for ourselves and for others," he added.

At the end of Biden's speech, the Jewish violinist Yitzhak Perlman performed a rendition of the prayer Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father, Our King) in the traditional version that is sung in many synagogues in the USA as well as in Israel.