Obama Celebrates Chanukah Early at the White House


President Barack Obama talks with a guest attending the Hanukkah reception, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011, in the Grand Foyer of the White House in Washington. Photo: AP

The annual Hanukkah reception timeline at the White House does not change much each year. Usually, there is some unique Menorah, brought especially for the festive occasion (this time, a Menorah made in a displaced persons’ camp after World War II, was lent by The Jewish Museum in New York), a mix of Jewish lawmakers, officials, rabbis, activists and donors, president’s remarks, music and good food.

But each year, there seem to be more and more smartphones, with guests barely looking at the President wishing them happy holiday. Instead, everyone is busy taking photos or videos of him.

This year, in a hall traditionally decorated with the Christmas tree (and a Menorah on the podium), President Obama, accompanied by the First Lady, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden, greeted about 550 guests. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was also present, along with the new White House Director of Jewish Outreach, Jarrod Bernstein, the Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, AIPAC’s Howard Kohr and Lee Rosenberg, Conference of Presidents’ Malcolm Hoenlein, NJDC’s David Harris, the Orthodox Union’s Natan Diament and many others.

The Hanukkah reception came about a week earlier than the Holiday itself, which the President readily acknowledged, “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. But we do have to be careful that your kids don’t start thinking Hanukkah lasts 20 nights instead of eight. That will cause some problems…..

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.”

“This year,” Obama said, “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,” he concluded to applause.

The West Point Jewish Chapel Choir performed for the audience, the food (including Sushi Rolls, Caramelized Pearl Onions, Shitake Mushrooms, Pine Nut Herb Crusted Lamb Chops and Homemade Sufganyot) was kosher under “strict rabbinical supervision of Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Lubavitch Center of Washington (Chabad),” as the White House put it.

When the guests line for a picture with the President (or the kosher raspberry jelly), one can forget – for a while – about political tensions and the 2012 elections.


  • Angry Noachide

    Fast-food culture…. Get it done and over with in one fell swoop.

    And the Jews wonder why I hate goyishkeit so much?

  • Nice

    Levi Shemtov does a good job. He works with whoever is there. I wonder if anyone asked to Obama to Please Free Rubashkin or Polard? He already pardoned many others.

  • Andrea Schonberger

    Anything for votes plus it’s against the Constitutional separation of religion and state.

  • Milhouse

    #4, Obama has only pardoned 22 people; 13 were never sentenced to prison in the first place, and the other 9 had already served all of their time (which ranged from 30 days to 9 years). He has commuted exactly one sentence, from 22 years to 10. So there’s not much precedent.

  • Roch

    To #1, no we shouldn’t….and #4 you are absolutely correct. Rabbi Levi Shemtov does a phenomenal job in DC. But I believe he must remain A-political in order to have an influence in DC. When the time is right, HaShem will grant a pardon….and if we think that its in our hands……how wrong are we?

  • The coordinator

    In my humble opinion, the Rebbe would not have agreed to this.

    Rabbi Shemtov of Philadelphia, related a story some years back, how one year they were celebrating Chanukah in the white house. It was one of the early nights, hence only a few candles were to be lit. The then president asked the shliach “would it not be prettier to have all the candles lit.” The shliach thought there would be no harm, so after he made the brocho on the required amount, he then proceeded to light the rest. it was a nice “moment”
    When they sent the DUCH to the Rebbe, all proud of the events, the rebbe, not one to be impressed by pomp and ceremony, crossed out the entire report and wondered HA’YITOCHEN. Enough said.
    This man who occupies the white house is no friend. Making Chanukah when HE wants is NOT the the way. There is no kedusha, no Kiddush hashem. No shliach should have been present.

  • Anon

    2. Some people wear their modesty in different ways.

    3. Did it ever occur to you that maybe these people have other plans during Hanukkah and/or that their schedules would not permit them to observe together at another time? Shame on you.

  • chacham

    Does any one really pay attention? Does anyone care to ask why patticurlarly on the day he did it or are you all gullible enough to fall for this

  • shtick tiniff

    So the bottom line is: You can celebrate Chanukah anytime you want, just invite a few idiots – with “chabad” and then lite candles – VIOLA, YOU ARE HAVING A CHANUKAH PARTY!?
    I know the publicity value, but how much is the CONFUSION value?!
    I knew chanukah was on the 25th of kislev, but here, “chabad” is doing it now?! WHY??
    Because….it can’t “conflict” with cratzmoch!?
    and “chabad” is giving a hechsher to making it whenever it’s most convenient for this SONEI YISROEL?!

  • You should run for presidency #8.

    You are right on target Mr coordinator. There is no presence of kiddusha or kiddush Hashem at this event. It is a farce and sham. Both the president and his wife look completely disinterested and detached. How ugly!!!!

  • Quote of the day

    “THE GUYS WITH THE WHISKERS I WON”T GIVE YOU A KISS” wow how nice.What a complimentary thing to say no??

  • Anyone But Obama 2012

    The shtick tinif in the White House probably thought it was the end of Ramadan.

    As for Levi Shemtov, he made sure any Jews there got kosher food. Can’t blame him; unfortunately the menuval in the White House did what he did and Levi Shemtov tried his best to elevate it.

    This has nothing to do with what the Rebbe wrote about. This was the Muslim-in-Chief’s idea.

  • AA


    “Some people wear their modesty in different ways.”

    What is that even supposed to mean? With such an attitude, the word “modesty” loses all meaning.

    Let’s consider the possibilities if the Obamas were hosting, lehavdil, the Pope or some prominent Muslim leaders, both of whose religions also require modesty in dress. Either: (a) Mrs. Obama might indeed respect their sensibilities and wear something that would indeed fit a reasonable definition of “modesty.” If that’s the case, then yes, a celebration in honor of Jews demands no less respect for our traditions. Or: (b) because she and her husband worship at the Temple of Self, she would ignore such considerations and wear whatever she wanted – which wouldn’t exactly reflect well on her judgment either. Be that as it may, for you to glibly try to pass it off as just a “different” kind of modesty means that you have pretty much thrown good judgment out the window.

    “Did it ever occur to you that maybe these people have other plans during Hanukkah and/or that their schedules would not permit them to observe together at another time? Shame on you.

    Yes, we are aware that they have plans to be on vacation at that time.

    Now let me turn the question around to you. Ever since the White House began holding an annual Chanukah party, they have always managed to hold it at the proper time. (Chanukah is eight days long, after all; if one day doesn’t work out, there’s another.) What might have changed this year? Maybe it’s simply that they know that they needn’t even make the effort to show that it’s important (as important as parallel celebrations for other religious groups), because T-lekkers like you will just take it calmly and ask, ”Please, sir, may I have another?”

  • haters

    amazing, no matter what our president does you find some excuse to belittle him and his actions!

  • Michelle is so rude

    Look how she corrects her husband in public…so not respectful – also, its December, Michelle. Don’t tell me your shvitzing! The sleeveless look is not ok in the winter and certainly not at religious celebration.
    And the whiskers comment was really unclassy.

  • Separation of the Powers

    For all you constitutional experts out there, did you find the Presidents’ fawning over Ruth Bader Ginsburg a little much..calling her his ‘favorite person’ ahead of a supreme court ruling on ObamaCare?
    Wow. What happened to Separation of the Powers. How can a President call a particular Justice who is about to rule on his bill, ‘My favorite person’?
    Forget the Latkes and the fake lighting. THAT does not smell kosher to me!

  • ob

    i just see that obama takes this as a joke ,something unimportant at all, just as a political obligation and making sure that he is metame the all thing ,changing the date and laughing about and showing to kids that he can change Chanukka as he wish and the Rabbis give him the eksher

  • Couple with no class

    Hold it during Chanukah at the White House with or without the president .
    The venue is at least as important as the current occupant.

  • Shazam

    May the early celebration serve as a “heads-up” to all the Jews in America that Chanukah is around the corner, and even the President (sort of) celebrates the holiday, that this encourage Jews who would have not otherwise celebrated, or who would have given thought to celebrating it “next year” upon noting the White House Chanukah party, that this year they are being reminded early enough that instead of thinking of celebrating “next year” and forgetting, that they celebrate this year.

    May the increased celebration of Chanukah bring additional strength to klal Yisroel and add to our zechusim in this time of world turmoil.

    May we be honored to see Hashem provide continued protection to Am Yisroel, Eretz Yisroel and continue to usher in Moshiach immediately.

    Eight lights lighting neshamos to Moshiach (bechinas shemonah).