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WASHINGTON — President Biden told a group of rabbis on Thursday that he was “raised in the synagogues” of Delaware — after previously claiming to have been raised by the state’s then-tiny Puerto Rican community.
“I, you might say, was raised in the synagogues of my state. You think I’m kidding, I’m not,” Biden said during a call ahead of Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish new year holiday that begins Friday.
The 80-year-old cited the Beth Shalom congregation in Wilmington, Del., as “the home of countless friends for me.” He named three rabbis, including a current one at the synagogue.
“I’ve always believed the message of the High Holidays is universal — that it’s never too late to repent, to change, to begin anew,” Biden said.
Biden’s 2007 memoir “Promises to Keep” doesn’t contain a single use of the word “synagogue” and its seven uses of the words “Jews” and “Jewish” all are used when discussing history or politics. Beth Shalom is not mentioned. His 2017 book “Promise Me, Dad” has similarly sparse mentions of Judaism.
Biden previously drew scrutiny in Puerto Rico last year when he said that “I was sort of raised in the Puerto Rican community at home, politically,” even though a paltry 2,000 Puerto Ricans lived in Delaware when he was launching his career and he had not previously described a significant connection to the community.
While speaking to the rabbis Thursday, Biden made other claims that have yielded unflattering fact-checks, including saying that he “got involved with the civil rights movement” before becoming a senator.
Biden previously has told contested stories about his purported civil rights activism, including claiming without evidence that he was arrested during protests.
At other points, Biden has said he wasn’t so involved.
“During the 1960s, I was in fact very concerned about the civil rights movement,” Biden said in 1987. “I was not an activist.I worked at an all-black swimming pool in the east side of Wilmington, Delaware. I was involved in what they were thinking, what they were feeling. I was involved, but I was not out marching. I was not down in Selma, I was not anywhere else. I was a suburbanite kid who got a dose of exposure to what was happening to black Americans in my own city.”
Biden has a habit of telling factually questionable stories when attempting to relate to his audiences.
Biden in 2021 told Jewish leaders that he remembered “spending time at” and “going to” Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in 2018 after the worst anti-Semitic attack in US history, in which 11 people were murdered. The synagogue said he never visited and the White House later said he was thinking about a 2019 phone call to the synagogue’s rabbi.
Later that month, Biden told an Idaho audience that his “first job offer” came from local lumber and wood products business Boise Cascade. The company said it was news to them.
Biden said at the Naval Academy’s graduation ceremony last May — and again at the Air Force Academy this June — that he was appointed to the prestigious Annapolis military college by the late Sen. J. Caleb Boggs (R-Del.). A search of Boggs’ archives failed to turn up evidence of the appointment.
Last month, Biden claimed while discussing wildfire devastation in Hawaii that his Delaware house “almost collapsed” from a small kitchen fire nearly two decades ago — after telling survivors one week prior that firefighters “ran into flames” to rescue first lady Jill Biden. At a fire prevention summit in October, he claimed “we almost lost a couple firefighters” during the blaze — prompting the local fire department to release a statement calling the blaze “insignificant.”
On Monday, the president said that he was at Ground Zero in Manhattan one day after the collapse of the Twin Towers in 2021 — and that he personally watched a fireball as the Pentagon was struck by a hijacked jet on 9/11. Both claims, uttered on the 22nd anniversary, conflicted with descriptions from his autobiography and the White House later said he was thinking of a trip to New York nine days after the attacks.
Polls show broad public concern about Biden’s mental acuity heading into next year’s election. A Wall Street Journal poll released last week found that 73% of voters believe Biden is too old for office, versus 47% who said so of 77-year-old Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.
But Biden also has a decades-long record of factual embellishments and biographical falsification. His first presidential campaign ended in 1987 due to a scandal involving plagiarism of speeches and a law school paper and exaggerations about his academic achievements.