The Biden administration is marking the celebration of Hanukkah this year by publicly denouncing antisemitism in the United States, with Attorney General Merrick Garland, a Jew, calling for Americans to unite against “bigotry in any of its forms.”
“Together, we must stand up against the disturbing rise in antisemitism. And together, we must stand up against bigotry in any of its forms. Our democracy depends on it,” Garland said at the National Menorah lighting ceremony on Sunday night, the first night of Hanukkah. “As a descendant of those who fled persecution because they were Jewish, it is especially meaningful to be here tonight as we light this menorah in our nation’s capital and under the protection of its laws.”
President Joe Biden hosted a Hanukkah reception at the White House on Monday where he unveiled the first-ever permanent White House menorah. Previous administrations, Biden said, had borrowed menorahs with “special significance of survival, hope and joy,” to celebrate the holiday there.
“This year we thought it was important to celebrate Hanukkah with another message of significance,” he said. “Permanence. Permanence.”
The president said that “evil” and “hate” would not prevail in the United States.
“I recognize your fear, your hurt. You’re worried that this violent venom is becoming too normal,” he said. “As your president, I want to make this clear: As my dad would say, and many of you have said, silence is complicity. We must not remain silent.”
This year’s holiday comes amid a rise in antisemitic violence and crime. In the past week, a 63-year-old man was assaulted in New York in what police are calling an antisemitic attack; an individual hacked into a North Carolina high school’s intercom system and allegedly made antisemitic remarks over the loudspeaker; and on Saturday, police responded to reports of antisemitic graffiti at a Maryland high school.
The administration’s message also comes amid outcry following former President Donald Trump’s decision to host Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes and rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West. The rapper has since made a series of increasingly more extreme antisemitic remarks, and at one point, praised Adolf Hitler.
While some Republican lawmakers condemned Trump’s meeting with the two men, many were reluctant to blame the ex-president, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy.
“All of us at the Department of Justice will never stop working to confront and combat violence and other unlawful acts fueled by hate,” Garland said at Sunday’s event. “That is our legal obligation. But, now more than ever, all Americans have a moral obligation to stand up against such hate.”
Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch, said in an interview with CNN ahead of Sunday’s ceremony, “the message of light over darkness and its triumph over darkness, I should say, could not be more timely than in what we are going through right now with a rise in antisemitism and people becoming actually very cautious about their Jewish identity as a result.”
Shemtov has led the National Menorah lighting ceremony for more than 30 years.
This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.
CNN’s Nikki Carvajal, Sam Fossum and Chandelis Duster contributed to this report.