From: Jaffe, Greg [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 5:07 PM
To: Gabriel, Brian A. Jr. EOP/WHO ; Allen, Jessica L. EOP/WHO
Subject: Hanukkah Party #1 pool report
The East Room of the White House was packed with Hannukah celebrants. President Obama said he was deeply moved earlier in the day by President Reuven Rivlin's "expressions of commitment to equality and justice." Obama noted that at last year's Hannukah celebration the White House celebrated Alan Gross's return from Cuba, where he was being held by the Cuban government. This year Gross was in attendance.
"We are happy to have him home here today at the White House," Obama said.
Rivlin spoke of the Macabees of the Hannukah story and how they "fought for liberty, for freedom of religion, for our traditions, for their ability to celebrate their own identity. Hannukah is the holiday of spiritual activists."
Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis, Missouri offered up a lengthy and spirited speech, which included references to Ferguson, the need to get "guns off our streets", and to "clean up the fires of toxic nuclear waste that are threatening our lives in St. Louis and across the country." She then led the blessing.
It fell to President Rivlin to light the Hannukah candles. He he had a little problem sparking the lighter, but your pooler (who was standing in the back and couldn't see) was told that President Obama stepped into help him.
This was the first of two Hannukkah parties. We'll do it all over again a little later tonight.
Background from the White House:
President Obama will deliver remarks to approximately 500 guests at the afternoon White House Hanukkah Reception. As in recent years, the food for this afternoon’s event is under the strict rabbinical supervision of Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Lubavitch Center of Washington (Chabad), in cooperation with the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington.
Bezalel Jerusalem Menorah, Judaic Art Gallery of the North Carolina Museum of Art
The menorah was made in Israel during the 1920s by a pioneer designer, Ze’ev Raban, who trained in Europe and blended European, Jewish and Palestinian Arab design elements to create a new aesthetic for Jewish art in what would become the State of Israel. This design elements of this menorah underscore a theme of coexistence, and its presence in the collection of the Judaic Art Gallery in North Carolina highlights the ties between American Jews and Israeli Jews and the vibrancy of Jewish life in the American South.
Last month, the White House put out a call to the public for unique and special menorahs to be used during today’s Hanukkah receptions. This menorah was selected from that pool of submissions.
The President will be joined by the First Lady, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and Mrs. Nechama Rivlin. Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis, Missouri will recite the traditional Hanukkah blessings. President Rivlin will light the menorah candles.
The Maccabeats originally formed in 2007 as Yeshiva University’s student vocal group and have now become a successful and well known Jewish music and a cappella group. The Maccabeats previously performed at the White House for Jewish American Heritage Month. They have over 20 million views on YouTube, and have had a wide variety of successful singles. The Maccabeats work to integrate traditional and secular wisdom combining Jewish, American, and Israeli songs.
U. S. Marine Chamber Orchestra
For more than two centuries, the United States Marine Band has been part of the events that have shaped the Nation.
Established by an Act of Congress in 1798, the Marine Band is America’s oldest continuously active professional music organization. Its primary mission is unique—to provide music for the President of the United States and the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Whether in White House performances, public concerts or national tours, the music of the Marine Band is the music of America. In its third century, the Marine Band continues a tradition of excellence that earned it the title, “The President’s Own.”
Menorahs on Display:
In addition to the menorah used in the candle lighting ceremony, several menorahs will be on display at the White House today:
The Eichenwald Menorah, owned by Jeanette Eichenwald of Allentown, PA, is a family heirloom that survived the Dachau concentration camp. On Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938, Eichenwald’s father and grandfather were arrested by the Nazis in Vienna and sent in cattle cars to the Dachau Concentration Camp. As Hanukkah was approaching, Eichenwald’s grandfather managed to grab the family menorah. The Eichenwalds and their fellow prisoners in the camp agreed to attempt to light the menorah, under threat of severe punishment if discovered. For wicks they used fraying fibers from the their thin cotton uniforms, for oil they saved tiny bits of fat from their meager portions, and to obtain a match, another inmate bartered his wedding ring to a guard. On the first night of Hanukkah, they miraculously lit the menorah undetected, but on the second night the men were caught, severely beaten, and their menorah was thrown into a fire by a Nazi guard. Days later, an inmate discovered that the menorah had survived the fire and buried it. Eichenwald’s grandfather was murdered, but her father survived the war, blind from the beatings he received that second night of Hanukkah. Years later, that fellow inmate uncovered the menorah and sent it to the Eichenwald family. Now, the menorah stays on Eichenwald’s mantle, a family heirloom and a symbol of remarkable resolve in the face of evil. The menorah is still lit by the family every year.
The Richard Meier Jewish History menorah comes to the White House from Arthur Freeman, a retired State Department official and menorah collector from Potomac, MD. Meier is an established architect and Pritzker Architecture Prize winner. The first five candleholders represent locations of Jewish expulsion: Egypt, Roman Palestine, France, England, and Spain. The sixth candleholder represents the emancipation of Jews and the expansion of the Jewish population in Vienna around 1890, the seventh candleholder represents pogroms in Tzarist Russia and the eighth candleholder is a reminder of the Holocaust. The menorah acknowledges the indomitable will of the Jewish people to live despite overwhelming adversity. The original tin menorah, the common material of simple Hanukkah lamps in Eastern Europe, is owned by the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.