Chanukkah at the White House
On December 14th President Barak and Michelle Obama hosted their eighth and final Chanukah party in the White House. It was a strictly kosher event, as this party has been since President George W. Bush hosted it. Although I was not present, I felt as if I was there in spirit. The President’s words were inspiring. Presidents Bush’s and Obama’s embrace of the Jewish people is reassuring and I’m confident that President-elect Trump will continue this important and significant tradition. Events like this are a great diversion from the news and controversies of every day and an example of that diversity is a strength of our great country. I will continue to be optimistic and pledge, like we all should, to do daily acts of loving-kindness. We are so blessed to live in a country where a kosher affair is a big deal.
On a very personal note, I am the proud uncle of Chanan Weissman, the White House Liason to the Jewish Community, who organized this year’s event that brought together some of the most consequential American Jewish leaders to the President’s Hanukkah celebration.
As we celebrate Chanukah, Israel and America, we are strengthened by the knowledge that the Jewish people are recognized and appreciated for our very many great contributions to society and the world. We can continue to strive to be the best citizens of the world by being the best Jewish people that we can be, always a light unto the nations.
As the light of the menorah intensifies, so does our resolve to speak out against injustice and teach our children by our words and our deeds.
With Joy and Appreciation,
Cantor Bruce Rockman
I hope you will enjoy these excerpts from President Obama’s December 14th Hanukkah speech. The entire poignant and humorous transcript is posted on bnaitikvah.org.
“Today in the White House, as you will soon do in your homes, we recall Hanukkah’s many lessons: How a small group can make a big difference. That’s the story of the Maccabees’ unlikely military victory, and of great moral movements around the globe and across time. How a little bit can go a long way, like the small measure of oil that outlasted every expectation. It reminds us that even when our resources seem limited, our faith can help us make the most of what little we have. The small State of Israel and the relatively small Jewish population of this country have punched far above their weight in their contributions to the world. So the Festival of Lights is also a reminder of how Isaiah saw the Jewish people, as a light unto the nations.
This is the season that we appreciate the many miracles, large and small, that have graced our lives throughout generations, and to recognize that the most meaningful among them is our freedom. The first chapter of the Hanukkah story was written 22 centuries ago, when rulers banned religious rituals and persecuted Jews who dared to observe their faith. Which is why today we are asked not only to light the menorah, but to proudly display it — to publicize the mitzvah.
Everybody in America can understand the spirit of this tradition. Proudly practicing our religion, whatever it might be — and defending the rights of others to do the same — that’s our common creed. That’s what families from coast to coast confirm when they place their menorah in the window — not to share the candles’ glow with just your family, but also with your community and with your neighbors.
As many of you know, the name “Hanukkah” comes from the Hebrew word for “dedication.” So we want to thank you again for your dedication to our country, to the historic progress that we’ve made, to the defense of religious freedom in the United States and around the world.