President Barack Obama praised Jews for supporting religious freedom at his final White House Hanukkah party — and did his best to ignore the man who will succeed him.
“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,” Obama said, according to the Times of Israel. “Which is why we are asked today to not only 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,” he added. “That’s our common creed.”
Obama portrayed the Hanukkah story as a lesson to all who would fight injustice.
“It reminds us that even when our resources seem limited, our faith can help us make the most of what little we have,” he added. “The small state of Israel and relatively small Jewish population of this country have punched far above their weight in their contributions to the world.”
The president closed the ceremony by thanking the American Jewish community for its “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.”
As usual, the party was a prized ticket for the Beltway elite and beyond.
Two separate receptions were held in the afternoon and early evening.
The family of the late Elie Wiesel, the late Holocaust-surviving Nobel Peace Prize laureate, attended. The menorah used for the candle-lighting ritual was one made by Wiesel’s young granddaughter Shira.
Dave Goldiner is the Forward’s director of digital media. Dave is a veteran journalist who has spent two decades working at newspapers in the United States and Africa. A native New Yorker, Goldiner wrote for the New York Daily News, where he covered some of the biggest stories of our time, including the attacks of September 11, along with thousands of stories of hope and heartbreak. He also studied and worked in Southern Africa and has written for publications in South Africa and Zimbabwe. He holds masters degrees in journalism and public administration from Columbia University. Dave can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @davegoldiner