Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation was a special guest at the White House on Wednesday. Talve was one of two guest speakers at the White House Hanukkah reception — the other was Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. Talve also gave a blessing before Rivlin lit the Hanukkah candles. Below, read Talve’s full remarks at the reception.


I stand here today with my 90-year-old father whose parents fled the Ottoman Empire.  As they passed by Lady Liberty they planted within us the promise that the gates would stay open for all immigrants and refugees who would come to build our nation.

I stand here today with my fierce family of clergy and black-lives-matter activists who took to the streets of Ferguson to stand firm until all members of the community would see God in the face of the other. 

I stand here for two groups of STL moms, one working to get the guns off of our streets and the other working to get help cleaning up the fires of the toxic nuclear waste that is killing us. 

And, of course, I stand with my sisters who lit these lights at the Kotel.

I stand here to light these lights that say no to the darkness of islamophobia, and  homophobia and transphobia and racism and anti-Semitism and all the other isms that dare to dim our hope.

And I stand here like the Maccabees of old who defied the culture of their time that said that destiny could not be changed and instead, jumped in to write a new story that demanded freedom and equal opportunity for all.  

And today we stand with the President of the United States and the President of Israel who today stand together at this critical moment in history when we must do everything to ensure security for Israelis and justice for Palestinians as allies committed to a lasting peace.

As a mother with a son named for a fallen Israeli soldier and with a daughter living in Israel, I offer these blessings to inspire all of us to jump into the story, to stand up to those who try to fill us with fear and dare to believe that we can make a better, less violent world for our children. 

Let us remember that the real miracle occurred when knowing that there was not enough oil, we still had the holy chutzpah to light that first candle because we knew that godliness and goodness are beyond what we think we know and there is always a chance for something more, and something new.

And let us celebrate the real miracle-- that no matter how much violence there is in Paris, in California or the streets of our nations-- we will respond with more love and more understanding and more compassion and we will see that the good in us has grown like the lights of Hanukkah-- and in spite of all odds- like the Maccabees of old --

We, too, will win. 

— Rabbi Susan Talve