It’s that time of year again, when Jewish politicos go latke-hopping from one Hanukkah event to another, making sure to be seen at the right menorah-lighting events.
And there are many to choose from in the nation’s capital.
First, naturally, comes President Obama’s Hanukkah reception at the White House. This is a tradition handed down from previous administrations which is traditionally a source of anxiety for Jewish insiders who have been checking their inbox for weeks to see if they’re on the list (and for organizers who face a significant amount of noodging from those wishing to get in).
Last year there was a lot of chatter about just how many people the Obamas invited to their reception and whether there were more or fewer than Bush used to invite (more, according to official accounts). This year, however, the White House has not released the numbers, but anxiety levels in the community seem lower, perhaps because most Jewish activists got their chance to get invited to the White House for either the Hanukkah reception or for the Jewish American Heritage Month event in May.
Everyone, however, is invited to attend the lighting of the National Menorah in the Ellipse, just outside the White House and next to the national Christmas tree. President Reagan was first to call it the “national” menorah and the name stuck. Performing at this Chabad-sponsored event will be the U.S. Navy Band and the Three Cantors.
Over on Capitol Hill, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida will be throwing the congressional menorah lighting, which will host not only Jewish lawmakers and staffers, but also many of the Jewish activists that are on the White House list as well.
And just so no one misses what the Obama administration has to say about the Festival of Lights, the president’s senior adviser, David Axelrod will, be speaking at the Hanukkah event sponsored by the Israeli embassy in Washington. The event, taking place at the city’s historic Sixth and I synagogue, will feature not only Axelrod and Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, but also Israeli rock star Ivri Lider, all the way from the holy land.
Things to watch for in these and other holiday events:
• Who is invited to the White House reception and which Jewish organizations will be represented more than others?
• Will the congressional candle lighting serve also as a farewell party for some Jewish congressmen who didn’t make it in this recent election cycle? (Senators Arlen Specter and Russ Feingold; Reps. Ron Klein, Paul Hodes, Alan Grayson, Steve Kagen, John Adler.)
• And will the rising star, Va. Rep. Eric Cantor, get to light the menorah? As majority leader-elect, he is, after all, soon to be the senior Jewish congressman on the Hill.
Add to all these events a whole bunch of menorah lighting events taking place at embassies, offices of Jewish organizations and pretty much everywhere else, and it makes for one busy Hanukkah in the nation’s capital.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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