WASHINGTON--President Obama welcomed Hanukkah to the White House early on Thursday hosting a holiday reception for some 550 mostly Jewish-Americans. Obama introduced his new Director of Jewish Outreach, Jarrod Bernstein--who replaced Susan Sher after she returned to Chicago.
"This Hanukkah season we remember a story so powerful that we all know it by heart -- even us Gentiles," Obama said.
Among the Chicagoans in the crowd: Nancy Kohn and husband Art Friedson; Marcia and Bruce Balonick, former Amb. Fay and Dan Levin; Dana and Lee Gordon; Lee Rosenberg; David Brown, Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Alan Solow.
But before I write anymore, please, let's eat. The White House kitchen was koshered for the event.
Here's the menu:
Dill and Vodka Scottish Smoked Salmon
Chopped Egg Whites
Chopped Egg Yolks
Assorted Fresh Sushi Rolls
Roulade of Chicken Breast
Arugula and Fresh Artichokes
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Fresh Thyme Sauce
Filet of Beef
Caramelized Pearl Onions
Pine Nut Herb Crusted Lamb Chops
Mango and Mission Fig Chutney
Homemade Potato with Scallion Pancakes
Winter Squash Salad
An Assortment of Homemade Desserts
Now, that we've had a nosh, back to the story. Hanukkah starts at sundown on Dec. 20. In 2009 and 2010 Obama and First Lady Michelle threw the Hanukkah party during Hanukkah. Since the 25th of Kislev comes late this year--and the Obamas are scheduled to be in Hawaii at the time--the party was moved up. Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill also were at the reception. The West Point Jewish Chapel Choir,also known as Kol Masoret, the Voice of Tradition, performed.
Below, from the White House....
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release December 8, 2011
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT HANUKKAH RECEPTION
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