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Obama White House Hanukkah Party: Kosher sushi, latkes, "Rock of Ages" sax solo

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hanukkah party.JPG
At the White House Hanukkah party: Chicagoans Rabbi Capers C. Funnye, Jr., Marcia Balonick and Jane Ramsey (photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--In a room heavily decorated for Christmas, President Obama and First Lady Michelle hosted a Hanukkah Party on the second night of the Jewish festival.

There was a heavy contingent of Chicagoans spotted in the East Room event, packed with about 500 people, including Rabbi Capers C. Funnye, Jr. who is Mrs. Obama's cousin. Funnye is the rabbi of Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation at 6601 S. Kedzie in Chicago.

Funnye told me this was his third White House Hanukkah party--not only last year with cousin Michelle--the Bush White House invited him in 2007.

Among the other Chicagoans at the party: Jane Ramsey, Judy Gold, Marcia Balonick, state Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, Neil Bluhm, Alan Solow and Jon Medline.

Among the others present: the three Jewish Supreme Court justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.

Unlike last year, there was a photo line with the president, who greeted his guests with Mrs. Obama for remarks and a menorah lighting. Quipped Obama, who was elbowed last weekend in a basketball game and required stitches, "Yes, they will be able to photo shop my lip for the picture.

Saxophonist Joshua Redman played a poignant "Rock of Ages," a traditional Hanukkah song and the Marine Band in the foyer was playing a medley of Hanukkah tunes.

In addition to a lavish spread of small lamb chops and sushi--everything was glatt kosher--waiters passed trays of small latkes.

hannukkah party2.JPG (photo by Lynn Sweet)

Click below for menu and other details of the 2010 Obama White House Hanukkah party

Below, menu and details from the White House....

Hanukkah ceremony

east room

6:35 pm

The President, Vice President, and First Lady will host approximately 500 guests for a Hanukkah ceremony in the East Room this evening. Among the guests are elected officials and Supreme Court justices, rabbis and lay leaders, artists and astronauts, members of the military and veterans.


Remarks by the President

Lighting of the Menorah - Susan Retik and Family

Special Performance by Joshua Redman

A Musical Tribute to Jewish-American Composers - U.S. Marine Chamber Orchestra


Susan Retik

Susan Retik is the cofounder and president of Beyond the 11th. Her commitment to Afghan widows began with her own journey into widowhood--a journey that began on September 11, 2001, when her husband David was killed. Susan is an inspirational speaker who shares her remarkable story of transforming personal loss into humanitarian outreach, helping others to embrace their own power to make a difference and raising awareness of the struggle of Afghan widows. Susan has received a number of honors, including the 2010 Presidential Citizens Medal. She was born in Philadelphia and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Colgate University, where she met David Retik. Upon graduating, Susan worked in the field of marketing at Scholastic in New York City until moving to Needham, Massachusetts. Today, Susan continues to champion the cause of Afghan widows. In 2006, Susan married Donald Ger, and in 2008 the couple welcomed a daughter, Rebecca, to their busy family--joining siblings Ben, Molly, and Dina.

The Menorah

The menorah for tonight's ceremony is generously loaned from Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans. It was dedicated to the congregation in 1957 by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Lopp in honor of their 25th wedding anniversary. The Lopps were longtime congregational leaders and supporters.

Located in New Orleans, Congregation Beth Israel was severely impacted by Katrina. The menorah was in the building during the flood and was discovered by cleanup crews covered in mold, filth and sewage. It was restored by a local silversmith and relit for the first time in December of 2007.

The menorah is one of very few items from the congregation that survived the devastation of Katrina. Rabbi Uri Topolosky notes, "It is a powerful symbol for us of bringing light into the darkness that August 29, 2005 brought into our lives. As it shines, it reminds us of warm memories pre-Katrina, and encourages us to continue building our future. The discovery of our menorah feels somewhat akin to the ancient Jews who discovered just a little vase of pure olive oil to rekindle their own menorah in the Temple in the aftermath of its destruction. People here really feel blessed to have at least something

from the old synagogue."

Today, Congregation Beth Israel has just broken ground on a new synagogue and they look forward to lighting this menorah as part of the dedication ceremonies next year at Hanukkah.

Joshua Redman

Joshua Redman is one of the most acclaimed and charismatic jazz artists to have emerged in the decade of the 1990s. Born in Berkeley, California, he is the son of legendary African-American saxophonist Dewey Redman and Jewish-American dancer Renee Shedroff. In 1991, Redman graduated from Harvard College summa cum laude, and had already been accepted by Yale Law School, but deferred entrance for one year. He moved to New York, and immediately immersed himself in the jazz scene. Five months later, Redman was named the winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition. Since then, Joshua has worked and played with a vast array of jazz luminaries, released thirteen jazz albums, and been nominated for three Grammy Awards.

U. S. Marine Chamber Orchestra

For more than two centuries, the United States Marine Band has been part of the events that have shaped the Nation.

Established by an Act of Congress in 1798, the Marine Band is America's oldest continuously active professional music organization. Its primary mission is unique--to provide music for the President of

the United States and the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Whether in White House performances, public concerts or national tours, the music of the Marine Band is the music of America. In its third century, the Marine Band continues a tradition of excellence that earned it the title, "The President's Own."


The food preparation of this evening's event is under the strict rabbinical supervision of Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Lubavitch Center of Washington (Chabad), in cooperation with the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington.

All meats are Glatt Kosher--Chassidishe Shechitah. All baked goods are Pas Yisroel. All wines are Mevushal. All foods have been prepared Lemihadrin with a Mashgiach Temidi.

Dill and Vodka Scottish Smoked Salmon
Non-Pareil Capers
Chopped Egg Whites
Chopped Egg Yolks
Lemon Wedges

Assorted Fresh Sushi Rolls
California Roll
Spicy Tuna Roll
Vegetable Roll
Soy Sauce
Pickled Ginger

Roulade of Chicken Breast
Arugula and Fresh Artichokes
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Fresh Thyme Sauce

Chateaubriand or Filet of Beef
Caramelized Pearl Onions
Shitake Mushrooms
Au Jus

Pine Nut Herb Crusted Lamb Chops
Mango and Mission Fig Chutney

Homemade Potato with Scallion Pancakes
Apple Sauce

Winter Squash Salad
Roasted Butternut Squash
Acorn Squash
Sweet Potato
Roasted Pepitas
Caramelized Shallots with a Seasonal Vinaigrette

Assorted Rolls

Dessert Station:
Homemade Soufganyot
Crème Anglaise
Raspberry Jelly

Miniature Pastries
Apple Pie Bars
Pistachio Roulade
Lemon Hazelnut Cake
Lemon Bars
Coconut Tarts
Mini Financier
Lemon Poppyseed Shortbread
Assorted Biscotti
Ginger Cookies
Chocolate Truffles

Assorted Large Tarts and Cakes
Chocolate Orange Tart
Caramel Pineapple Tart
Pear Ginger Tart
Pumpkin Tart
Almond Fruit Cake

Strawberries, Champagne Grapes, Cherries

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on December 2, 2010 6:20 PM.

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