Hanukkah celebrated with National Menorah lighting on White House Ellipse

Casey Dawson
December 13, 2017

Thousands are expected to gather today in Washington, DC, for the 38th annual lighting ceremony of the National Hanukkah menorah.

The Jewish celebration of Hanukkah begins Tuesday at sundown.

Hence, Jews celebrate Hannukah for eight days, lighting one candle each night, until on the final night there are eight tiny flames dancing atop the Menorah, the special Hanukkah candelabra. The effect is repeated each year on a grander scale, as menorahs are lit around the world.

Hosted by the American Friends of Chabad Lubavitch, the night features musical performances from Dreidelman and the Macabees, as well as and the United States Air Force Band.

There will be Hanukkah treats, including potato pancakes called latkes and jelly-filled donuts calls sufganiyot, and the event is free for anyone.

Religious leaders agree Hanukkah, which began the evening of December 12 and continues through December 20, has changed over the last several decades with the rise of interfaith marriage.

Although Hanukkah in Israel remains far less commercialized than it is in the USA, with shopping malls hanging nary a holiday decoration, it has more recently taken on some of its American trappings.

There was no Christmas tree and the presents were small, but meaningful. Instead they will hold private celebrations in their homes.

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Neal Schuster, Rabbi and Senior Jewish Educator at the University of Kansas Hillel, weighed in on the situation and gave some background to the holiday. "We start with one on the first day and add a candle each day, and on the eighth night we have a total of eight".

This gives families looking to celebrate Hanukkah an event to attend other than traditional tree lightings held in almost every town.

Many Jewish communities, including ours in Berks County, take the tradition a step further by holding public menorah lightings to which people of all faiths are invited. It's believed that early Jewish scholars did not include this book in the Jewish bible because the story was about war and military victory, and less a spiritual event.

After recounting the Hanukkah tale and praising its "Jewish heroes", Trump said the U.S. was pround to "stand with the Jewish people who shine as a light to all nations" during the Festival of Lights. "Hanukkah is a time to dispel darkness by bringing more light".

But most of the important religious details are found in the Talmud.

"It's the idea of increasing light, getting rid of all negative things around of us", he said.

"It's not some sort of grievous offense to Judaism (that the menorah was taken)", Schuster said.

At 4:45 p.m. Sunday, the Chabad will light the nine-foot menorah.

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