President Obama celebrated the Festival of Lights twice on the last day of Hanukkah, highlighting the coincidence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah in 2013 at the afternoon celebration. “As the Festival of Lights draws to a close, let’s take one last chance to think about all the miracles we’ve been lucky enough to experience in our own lives,” he said. “There are small miracles, like the invention of the Menurkey. And then there are big miracles like the chance to be a part of this great country.”
Rabbi Amanda Lurer, a JWB-endorsed Navy chaplain, offered the blessings: “Hanukkah formally ends tonight as the sun goes down this evening,” said Lt. Lurer, “but it will always be appropriate for us as we gather to remind ourselves and the world of the meaning of this holiday.”
A Jewish military family attended the celebration. The Schmitters were there without Jake, who is currently deployed to Afghanistan. “So Drew, Lainey, Kylie, I want you to know how proud we are of not only your dad, but also of you,” said the president. “And we’re so grateful for the sacrifices that you make on behalf of our country every single day.”
The menorah lit at the afternoon celebration was created in 1986 to celebrate the centennial of the Statue of Liberty. Manfred Anson, who escaped Europe in 1939, created the Statue of Liberty Menorah, taking the design of a century-old Polish seven-branched menorah and adapting it for Hanukkah. He used a Statue of Liberty statuette for each branch of the menorah, transforming Lady Liberty’s torch of freedom into the candleholder for each night of Hanukkah and for the service candle. A nineteenth-century brass menorah from what is now the Czech Republic was used for the evening reception.
Rabbi Joshua Sherwin, chaplain at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, gave the blessing at the evening reception. “We now kindle the menorah and recite two blessings as we kindle these lights — the she-asa nissim, thanking God for the miraculous capability to bring light to the darkest corners of the world and for the leaders who are dedicated to strengthening religious freedom in our days just as the Maccabees did in ancient ones.” Sherwin was recently awarded the Witherspoon Award from the National Bible Association.