Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke out against antisemitism at Sunday night’s National Menorah lighting.
“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 lighting on 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,” he continued.
Garland’s comments come amid a rise in antisemitic violence and crime. A 63-year-old man was assaulted in New York on Wednesday in what police are calling an antisemitic attack. On Thursday, 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.
His speech also comes as leaders on the right are embracing, or failing to condemn, antisemitism. Former President Donald Trump hosted a dinner in late November with 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 Hitler.
“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 Monday. “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 the 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.