Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The National Menorah on The Ellipse, part of the President's Park south of the White House in Washington, D.C.

The National Hanukkah Menorah was first lit on The Ellipse south of the White House by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. It was an actual menorah, and sat on a pedestal under a glass case. President Reagan first referred to it as the "National Menorah", and it moved to The Ellipse in 1987. The menorah is actually owned by the American Friends of Chabad-Lubavitch, who set it up and remove it.







A Hanukkah menorah was not erected inside the White House until President Bill Clinton had one set up and lit in the public area in 1993. President George W. Bush had a menorah lit in the private quarters of the White House in 2001. Bush was also the first president to actually light a menorah candle (in 2005).

The White House menorah changes every year. For example, in 2009, the Hanukkah menorah was a sterling silver one crafted by Viennese silversmith Cyril Schillberger in 1783, on special loan from the Jewish Museum in Prague. The following year the menorah was one salvaged from Congregation Beth Israel in Lakeview, New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina, while the 2011 menorah was one crafted in a refugee camp and loaned to the White House by the Jewish Museum of New York. The 2012 menorah was a 90-year-old one rescued from a Long Island synagogue battered by Hurricane Sandy.

The 2014 White House menorah comes from Hand In Hand, a bilingual school in Jerusalem whose students are both Jewish and Muslim. Two weeks ago, the school was set on fire by an arsonist. Rather than respond with anger, the students constructed a menorah. Each of its branches is dedicated to one of the values the Hand In Hand school is founded on -- values like community and dignity and equality and peace.

Ninth-graders Inbar Vardi (who is Jewish) and Mouran Ibrahim (who is Muslim) flew from Israel to the United States to light the Hanukkah menorah at the White House Hanukkah Party on December 17, 2014.

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