John F. Kennedy photo

Statement by Senator John F. Kennedy

August 29, 1960

Following is statement by Senator John F. Kennedy on the occasion of the Jewish High Holy Days:

I extend greetings to all Americans of the Jewish faith as they prepare to mark their high holy days and to usher in the year 5721.

Our Nation has been uniquely blessed in the rich and creative diversity of its religious traditions. Each of the major faiths has added brilliantly to the ample spiritual treasures of our country. Despite deeply held convictions, which each creed has about its particular sacred beliefs, we can all, as Americans, join in saying that our very variety has given the world a matchless illustration of the truth that different religious groups can live peacefully and productively together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding.

I have found, in the meaningful symbolism of the Jewish observance of Rosh Hashanah and the Day of Atonement, some tremendously significant moral insights that add dimension to my own understanding of man's relationship with God.

Setting aside a specific season of the year for candid soul searching and for a hard look at the gap between what we aspire to achieve and our own meager attainments is a spiritually fruitful device. Indeed our Founding Fathers rose to heights of moral leadership in the world because they understood their own frailties and were humble in the face of man's capacities for goodness and greatness.

It seems to me that, with an awareness of the challenges to which all Americans must respond in this year of decision, the Jewish high holy days offer a time for reflecting upon the inner resources that nourish our lives, and upon the sense of personal responsibility which each of us must have for world peace in our time. Thoughtful people everywhere are deeply impressed with the qualities of "prayer, penitence, and acts of social righteousness" that provide the high traditional theme for this period of ethical self-examination.

How may we create a more perfect world community and expand the limits on our present capacity to help our fellow men?

If I understand the religious principles of the Jewish faith, it is expressed in the belief that each person is responsible for every other person, and, as children of God, we each have infinite potentialities for moral growth.

I pray that as American Jews gather in their houses of worship during their holy season to seek an understanding of God's purpose in their lives and awaken from self-preoccupation, they may see the beginning of the fulfillment of their hopes and prayers for peace and blessing for all mankind.

John F. Kennedy, Statement by Senator John F. Kennedy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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