In the U.S., Hanukkah starts with storms and blizzards at the Great Plains, followed by concerts and all sorts of creative entertainments, from latkes-eating contests to parrot races in communities throughout the country. President Obama, who already threw his Hanukkah party at the White House a week and a half ago, sent his holiday wishes. This time, despite the presidential elections in the air, he did so without mentioning his support for Israel even once (which is not bad at all, considering the controversy the issue seems to provoke each time it is mentioned in this season).
“Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating Hanukkah around the world”, the President said in a statement. “This Hanukkah season we remember the powerful story of a band of believers who rose up and freed their people, only to discover that the oil left in their desecrated temple — which should have been enough for only one night — ended up lasting for eight. It’s a timeless story of right over might and faith over doubt – one that has given hope to Jewish people everywhere for over 2,000 years. And tonight, as families and friends come together to light the menorah, it is a story that reminds us to count our blessings, to honor the sacrifices of our ancestors, and to believe that through faith and determination, we can work together to build a brighter, better world for generations to come.”
There were several other Hanukkah parties in Washington recently — the Congressional Hanukkah reception hosted by DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz at the Library of Congress followed the White House party. There are more traditional receptions — by the Israeli Embassy and the Indian Embassy, for example. There was also a new (and somewhat surprising) addition this year — last Sunday, the Lithuanian embassy hosted its first annual Joint Hanukkah and Lithuanian Christmas (Kucios) Party, with four local rabbis, a Lithuanian Roman Catholic Bishop, kids from a Lithuanian school (who performed traditional songs and dances) and a local Jewish congregations (whose members sang Hanukkah songs). And of course there were sufganiot. The celebration, as it was explained, came as a part of The Sunflower Project, an international effort to bridge the Jewish and Lithuanian communities.