Presidential Hanukkah

Presidential Proclamation

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Michelle and I send warm wishes to all those celebrating Hanukkah.

For the first time since the late 1800s – and for the last time until some 70,000 years from now – the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving. It’s an event so rare some have even coined it “Thanksgivukkah.” As we gather with loved ones around the turkey, the menorah, or both, we celebrate some fortunate timing and give thanks for miracles both great and small.

Like the Pilgrims, the Maccabees at the center of the Hanukkah story made tremendous sacrifices so they could practice their religion in peace. In the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, they reclaimed their historic homeland. But the true miracle of Hanukkah was what came after those victories almost 2200 years ago – the Jewish Temple was cleansed and consecrated, and the oil that was sufficient for only one day lasted for eight. As the first Hanukkah candle is lit, we are reminded that our task is not only to secure the blessing of freedom, but to make the most of that blessing once it is secure.

In that spirit Michelle and I look forward to joining members of the Jewish community in America, in the State of Israel, and around the world as we work together to build a future that is bright and full of hope. From my family to yours, Chag Sameach.

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating Hanukkah around the world.

This Hanukkah season we remember the powerful story of the Maccabees who rose up to liberate their people from oppression. Upon discovering the desecration of their Temple, the believers found only enough oil to light the lamp for one night. And yet it lasted for eight.

Hanukkah is a time to celebrate the faith and customs of the Jewish people, but it is also an opportunity for people of all faiths to recognize the common aspirations we share. This holiday season, let us give thanks for the blessings we enjoy, and remain mindful of those who are suffering. And let us reaffirm our commitment to building a better, more complete world for all.

From our family to the Jewish Community around the world, Chag Sameach.

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 08, 2011
Remarks by the President at Hanukkah Reception

Grand Foyer

6:10 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Well, good evening, everybody. Welcome to the White House. Thank you all for joining us tonight to celebrate Hanukkah -- even if we're doing it a little bit early. (Laughter.)

I want to start by recognizing a few folks who are here. The ambassador to the United States from Israel, Michael Oren, is in the house. (Applause.)

We are honored to be joined by one of the justices of the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is here. (Applause.) We are thrilled to see her. She's one of my favorites, I got to -- (laughter.) I've got a soft spot for Justice Ginsburg.

And we’ve got more than a few members of Congress here and members of my administration in the house, including our new Director of Jewish Outreach, Jarrod Bernstein is here. Where's Jarrod? (Applause.) Hey, Jarrod.

I also want to thank the West Point Jewish Chapel Cadet Choir –- (applause) -- the Voice of Tradition -– for their wonderful performance, but more importantly, for their extraordinary service to our country.

And I want to thank all the rabbis and lay leaders who have come far and wide to be here with us today.

Now, as I said, we’re jumping the gun just a little bit. The way I see it, we’re just extending the holiday spirit. We're stretching it out. (Laughter.) But we do have to be careful that your kids don’t start thinking Hanukkah lasts 20 nights instead of eight. (Laughter.) That will cause some problems.

This Hanukkah season we remember a story so powerful that we all know it by heart -- even us Gentiles. It’s a story of right over might, of faith over doubt. Of a band of believers who rose up and freed their people and discovered that the oil left in their desecrated temple –- which should have lasted only one night –- ended up lasting eight.

It’s a timeless story. And for 2,000 years, it has given hope to Jews everywhere who are struggling. And today, it reminds us that miracles come in all shapes and sizes. Because to most people, the miracle of Hanukkah would have looked like nothing more than a simple flame, but the believers in the temple knew it was something else. They knew it was something special.

This year, we have to recognize the miracles in our own lives. Let’s honor the sacrifices our ancestors made so that we might be here today. Let’s think about those who are spending this holiday far away from home -– including members of our military who guard our freedom around the world. Let’s extend a hand to those who are in need, and allow the value of tikkun olam to guide our work this holiday season.

This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations. And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel. (Applause.)

So while it is not yet Hanukkah, let’s give thanks for our blessings, for being together to celebrate this wonderful holiday season. And we never need an excuse for a good party. (Laughter.) So we are going to see all of you in a second downstairs --

MRS. OBAMA: Aren't we in the Blue Room?

THE PRESIDENT: Or wherever we are. (Laughter.) I think we're downstairs. We are downstairs in the Map Room. So as I look around, I see a whole bunch of good friends. We can't wait to give you a hug and a kiss and wish you a happy holiday. The guys with whiskers, I won't give you a kiss. (Laughter.)

Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)

END 6:14 P.M. EST

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
December 02, 2010
Remarks by the President at a Hanukkah Reception
East Room
6:44 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, this is a good looking group right here. (Laughter.)
Good evening, everybody.
AUDIENCE: Good evening.
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the White House. I want to thank all of you for joining us in celebrating the second night of Hanukkah. Happy Hanukkah, everybody. (Applause.)

We are joined tonight by Ambassador Michael Oren, of Israel. Where's Michael? (Applause.) He's way back there. And so I want to begin by offering our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all of those who've died as a result of the terrible forest fire in northern Israel.

As rescuers and firefighters continue in their work, the United States is acting to help our Israeli friends respond to the disaster. A short while ago, our ambassador in Tel Aviv, Jim Cunningham, issued a disaster declaration, which has launched an effort across the U.S. government to identify the firefighting assistance we have available and provide it to Israel as quickly as possible. Of course, that's what friends do for each other.

And, Mr. Ambassador, our thoughts and prayers are with everybody in Israel who is affected by this tragedy and the family and loved ones of those in harm's way.

Tonight, it's an honor to welcome so many friends and leaders from the Jewish community and beyond. And I want to start by recognizing my Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, George Mitchell, who is here. Please give him a round of applause. (Applause.) And all the other outstanding members of the diplomatic corps who are here.

One third of the Supreme Court is here. (Applause.) One of my favorites, Justice Ginsburg, is hiding out here in the front. (Laughter.) She really is here. It's hard to see. (Laughter.)

Justice Breyer is here. And -- where's Justice Breyer? There he is -- right here. (Applause.) And our newest addition and former colleague of mine when we were teaching together, Elena Kagan is in the house. (Applause.)

I want to also acknowledge somebody who I rely on day in, day out, who is not only a great Vice President, but is also -- (laughter) -- one of my dearest friends; Joe Biden is in the house. (Applause.)

And to all the members of the administration, and members of Congress, and all the state and local leaders who are with us today, welcome.

I want to thank Joshua Redman for gracing us with his talent and helping us with the music. (Applause.)

And finally, I want to thank the rabbis and lay leaders who have traveled from all over the country to be here. Yes, you can give yourselves a round of applause. (Applause.)

Now, tonight, we gather to celebrate a story as simple as it is timeless. It's a story of ancient Israel, suffering under the yoke of empire, where Jews were forbidden to practice their religion openly, and the Holy Temple -- including the holy of holies -- had been desecrated.

It was then that a small band of believers, led by Judah Maccabee, rose up to take back their city and free their people. And when the Maccabees entered the temple, the oil that should have lasted for a single night ended up burning for eight.

That miracle gave hope to all those who had been struggling in despair. And in the 2,000 years since, in every corner of the world, the tiny candles of Hanukkah have reminded us of the importance of faith and perseverance. They have illuminated a path for us when the way forward was shrouded in darkness.

And as we prepare to light another candle on the menorah, let us remember the sacrifices that others have made so that we may all be free. Let us pray for the members of our military who guard that freedom every day, and who may be spending this holiday far away from home.

Let us also think of those for whom these candles represent not just a triumph of the past, but also hope for the future -- the men, women and children of all faiths who still suffer under tyranny and oppression.

That's why families everywhere are taught to place the menorah in public view, so the entire world can see its light. Because, as the Talmud teaches us, "So long as a person still has life, they should never abandon faith."

Now, the menorah we're using tonight, and the family who -- who is going to help us light it, both stand as powerful symbols of that faith.

This beautiful menorah has been generously loaned to us by Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans. (Applause.) Five years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the synagogue was covered in eight feet of water. Later, as the cleanup crew dug through the rubble, they discovered this menorah, caked in dirt and mold. And today it stands as a reminder of the tragedy and a source of inspiration for the future.

And that feeling is shared by Susan Retik. It's a feeling they know all too well. After her husband, David, was killed on September 11th, Susan could have easily lost herself in feelings of hopelessness and grief. But instead, she turned her personal loss into a humanitarian mission -- co-founding "Beyond the 11th," a group that reaches out to Afghan widows facing their own struggles.

So on this second night of Hanukkah, let us give thanks to the blessings that all of us enjoy. Let us be mindful of those who need our prayers. And let us draw strength from the words of a great philosopher, who said that a miracle is "a confirmation of what is possible."

And now I'd like to turn it over to Susan, who by the way has been on this stage before, receiving a presidential award for her outstanding work. But she happens to be joined by a beautiful family -- Donald, Ben, Molly, Dina and Rebecca. (Laughter.) Rebecca is down here. So I want to turn -- there she is. Yes, she is adorable. (Laughter.) As Michelle -- (Laughter.) As Michelle said as we were getting on stage, she will be stealing the show. (Laughter.) So we're going to turn it over to Susan and her family for the blessings.(The blessings are offered.)

THE PRESIDENT: So happy Hanukkah to all of you. We're going to see most of you downstairs. Be patient in the line. (Laughter.) And I just want to let everybody know that, yes, they will be able to Photoshop my lip for the picture. (Laughter.) Happy Hanukkah, everybody. (Applause.)

Office of the Press Secretary

Statement by the President of the United States of America
Hanukkah (Chanukah) 2009

Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all who are celebrating Hanukkah around the world. The Hanukkah story of the Maccabees and the miracles they witnessed reminds us that faith and perseverance are powerful forces that can sustain us in difficult times and help us overcome even the greatest odds.

Hanukkah is not only a time to celebrate the faith and customs of the Jewish people, but for people of all faiths to celebrate the common aspirations we share. As families, friends and neighbors gather together to kindle the lights, may Hanukkah's lessons inspire us all to give thanks for the blessings we enjoy, to find light in times of darkness, and to work together for a brighter, more hopeful tomorrow.

Barack Obama
President of the United States

Hanukkah, 2004
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America
I send greetings to all those celebrating Hanukkah, the festival of lights.
On the 25th day of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar, Jews around the world commemorate the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago. During this time of darkness, the Temple had been seized, and Judaism had been outlawed. Judah Maccabee and his followers fought for three years for their freedom and successfully recaptured Jerusalem and the Temple. Jewish tradition teaches that the Maccabees found only one small bottle of oil to be used for temple rituals, but that oil lasted eight days and nights. The miracle of this enduring light, remembered through the lighting of the Menorah, continues to symbolize the triumph of faith over tyranny.
The bravery of the Maccabees has provided inspiration through the ages. We must remain steadfast and courageous as we seek to spread peace and freedom throughout the world. This holiday season, we give thanks to God, and we remember the brave men and women of our Armed Forces and their families. We also pray that all who live under oppression will see their day of freedom and that the light of faith will always shine through the darkness.
Laura joins me in wishing you a blessed and Happy Hanukkah.

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