Snap-O Fact #39
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President Obama Celebrates Hanukkah Early; Reaffirms Support for Israel.


Although the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins this year at sunset on December 20, the White House hosted an early reception for “The Festival of Lights” on Thursday, December 8, 2011. In a hall traditionally decorated with the Christmas tree and a Menorah made in a displaced persons camp at the podium, President Obama, First Lady Michele Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill greeted 550 guests. Guests included Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, along with the new White House Director of Jewish Outreach, Jarrod Bernstein, the Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, AIPAC's Howard Kohr and Lee Rosenberg, Conference of Presidents' Malcolm Hoenlein, NJDC's David Harris, the Orthodox Union's Natan Diament and many others. 

President Obama remarked that the Hanukkah story was about “right over might, faith over doubt.” In the Hanukkah story, a small band of Jews rededicating a Jerusalem temple found that a one-day supply of oil kindled a flame instead for eight. He readily acknowledged, “We’re jumping the gun just a little bit. The way I see it, we’re just extending the holiday spirit. We’re stretching it out. "So while it is not yet Hanukkah, let’s give thanks for our blessings, for being together to celebrate this wonderful holiday season. And we never need an excuse for a good party." He later noted, "We can't wait to give you a hug and a kiss and wish you a happy holiday." “This year,” Obama said, “We have to recognize the miracles in our own lives. Let’s honor the sacrifices our ancestors made so that we might be here today. Let’s think about those who are spending this holiday far away from home - including members of our military who guard our freedom around the world. Let’s extend a hand to those who are in need, and allow the value of tikkun olam to guide our work this holiday season. This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations. And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.” 

The West Point Jewish Chapel Choir performed for the audience, and guests dined on Kosher Sushi Rolls, Caramelized Pearl Onions, Shitake Mushrooms, Pine Nut Herb Crusted Lamb Chops and Homemade Sufganyot. 

After the reception the guests assembled at the Library of Congress where Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz held a party for Congress members. 

During this event Ambassador Oren recounted a phone call he received from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he was heading to the Hanukkah reception in the White House last year asking Oren to seek President Obama’s help in containing the Carmel fire which was threatening to reach Haifa at the time. The ambassador related that subsequently in a private Oval Office meeting, President Obama responded to Israel’s need and dispatched fire extinguishing equipment that very night. 

 
Sources:

Compton, Matt. “A White House Hanukkah Celebration.” The White House, 09 December, 2011. Web.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/12/09/white-house-hanukkah-celebration

“Obama celebrates Hanukkah, Jewish Festival of Lights, at White House.” The WashingtonPost, 08, 2011. Web.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-celebrates-hanukkah-jewish-festival-of-lights-at-white-house/2011/12/08/gIQAiJDMgO_story.html 

Mozgovaya, Natasha. “President Obama celebrates Hannukah early at the White House.” Haaretz, 09 December 2011. Web.
http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/focus-u-s-a/president-obama-celebrates-hannukah-early-at-the-white-house-1.400523 

Benhorin, Yitzhak, “Obama celebrates Hanukkah in White House.” Ynetnews, 09 December 2011. Web
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4159199,00.html