Orthodox Union presents 100,000 pro-Israel letters to the White House

The White House staff with whom the OU spoke were ‘shocked’ that so many letters had been gathered in just six days.

By Andrew Bernard, JNS

Orthodox Union leaders delivered 100,000 letters to the White House on Wednesday, urging U.S. President Joe Biden to continue supporting Israel, demanding the release of hostages whom Hamas holds in Gaza and combating antisemitism domestically.

The letters were the first batch of more than 180,000 that the OU has collected from synagogues across the country since Thursday, marking 180 days that the hostages have been in captivity.

Rabbi Moshe Hauer, executive vice president of the OU, told JNS that the best way to convey the American Jewish community’s intense feelings was to deliver the letters to the White House physically.

“Something which would just disappear, that will just be there going over the cyber wires, would simply not convey that passion,” Hauer said.

Hauer contrasted what he called the Orthodox Union’s “style” with other groups that shout the president down in public meetings, paint slogans on public property and protest outside the homes of U.S. officials, “making it hard for them to come in and to go and to live and to sleep.”

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“We’re not going to be doing that to get attention from the press,” he said.

“We can’t be silent, and we have to make arguments first,” Hauer added. “So we came forward as a community in an impactful way, in a refined way and in a firm way.”

The White House asked that the OU limit its first delivery to 100,000 letters. The OU will deliver the other 80,000 next week.

On a rainy Wednesday afternoon in Washington, JNS accompanied some 20 people who hand-delivered the letters, mostly packed in banker boxes, from the Willard Hotel three blocks away to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, part of the White House complex.

Hauer told JNS that the letters were delivered to officials from the White House Office of Public Engagement and Office of the Liaison to the Jewish Community.

The White House staff with whom the OU spoke were “shocked” that so many letters had been gathered in just six days, he said.

Orthodox Union staff told White House officials that they deeply appreciated the Biden administration’s support for Israel, including recent arms sales, but are concerned that recent messaging from the administration lacks moral clarity about the conflict.

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Some recent messages from the White House have been “feeding the domestic antisemitism that is deeply affecting American Jews,” Hauer said. “We need the moral clarity back.”

One of the speakers at a press conference at the Willard before the letters were delivered was Maurice Shnaider, uncle of Shiri Bibas whom Hamas kidnapped—along with her husband and 9-month-old and 4-year-old sons—at Kibbutz Nir Oz on Oct. 7.

Shnaider told reporters that global institutions are failing the hostages. “The UN has done nothing. They said, ‘No, we can’t do it. No, we don’t have the power to do it.’ They told me that personally,” Shnaider said. “The Red Cross—nothing.”

Hauer told attendees that the volume and content of the letters speak for themselves.

“We are not here to speak on behalf of American Jewry. We are here because American Jewry has spoken for themselves,” he said. “We will never become tired of expressing our appreciation to Biden for his support. But we need more.”

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