|Lighting of the National Menorah|
U.S. National Menorah in 2014
|Begins||December 16, 2014|
|Ends||December 23, 2014|
|Location(s)||The Ellipse, Washington, D.C., U.S.|
The National Menorah is a large Hanukkah menorah located in the northeast quadrant of The Ellipse near the White House in Washington, D.C. It was first lit in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter, and has been erected and lit every year since. The Menorah has grown in size as well, and is now 30 feet (9.1 m) high.
In 1974 Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson called for the public awareness of the festival of Hanukkah and encouraged the lighting of public menorahs. Although initially criticized by liberal Jewish organizations, Schneerson defended the campaign. In 1979, Abraham Shemtov of Chabad, sought to erect a menorah on the White House lawn. Cecil D. Andrus, the secretary of interior initially denied Shemtov a permit to put a menorah on government property, saying it would violate the First Amendment. Stuart E. Eizenstat eventually settled the matter and a permit was granted.
That year, President Jimmy Carter ended 100 days of self-imposed seclusion over the Iran hostage crisis by walking to Lafayette Park, and lighting the Menorah erected there by Chabad. Carter delivered brief remarks. Every president since has recognized Hanukkah with a special menorah-lighting.
President Ronald Reagan is credited with naming it the National Menorah in a statement read during the menorah-lighting in Lafayette Park in 1982.
As of 2013, the Menorah was 30 feet (9.1 m) high, and rested on an elevated platform 2 feet (0.61 m) high. The height of the hanukiah and platform are regulated by rabbinical law, which requires the menorah to be both visible (minimum height off the ground) and of a maximum height (a person must look upward but not uncomfortably so).
The Menorah is erected each year by Abraham Shemtov and Levi Shemtov and sponsored by American Friends of Chabad-Lubavitch, as part of the campaign initiated by Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson to raise awareness and hold public Hanukkah celebrations.
The National Menorah annual event is broadcast by C-Span each year. It includes a music presentation of festive Hanukkah songs by the United States Army Band. A U.S. ambassador or member of the cabinet has participated in the Menorah lighting each year. In 2004, all 50 U.S. governors issued proclamations in honor of the National Menorah.
Scholars have cited this initiative as a prime factor in Hanukkah becoming a widely celebrated festival.
Every year since then, a member of the President's administration has participated and made formal remarks during the lighting ceremony. Those who participated in the National Menorah event include:
- 1979: Jimmy Carter, President of the United States.
- 1994: Joe Lieberman
- 1996: Stuart Eizenstat and Joe Lieberman
- 1997: Stuart Eizenstat
- 1998: Jack Lew
- 2000: Stuart Eizenstat
- 2006: Susan Schwab
- 2007: Michael Mukasey
- 2008: Joshua B. Bolten, White House Chief of Staff
- 2009: Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff
- 2012: Jeffrey Zients, acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget
- 2013: Michael Froman, U.S. Trade Representative
- 2014: Joe Biden, U.S. Vice President
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- Sarna, Jonathan D. (December 2, 2009). "How Hanukkah Came to the White House". The Forward. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
- Park, MaryAlice (November 27, 2013). "It's Thanksgivukkah - The National Menorah Is Lit". ABC News. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
- Samuel, Stacey (December 10, 2012). "National Menorah lit in Washington". CNN. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
- "From the Archives: Hanukkah at the White House". 5 December 2013.
- "National Hanukkah Menorah Lighting, Nov 28 1994 - Video - C-SPAN.org". C-SPAN.org.
- "National Hanukkah Menorah Lighting, Dec 6 1996 - Video - C-SPAN.org". C-SPAN.org.
- "National Menorah Lighting, Dec 23 1997 - Video - C-SPAN.org". C-SPAN.org.
- "Clip: National Menorah Lighting Ceremony". C-SPAN.org.
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- "National Hanukkah Menorah Lighting, Dec 17 2006 - Video - C-SPAN.org". C-SPAN.org.
- "National Hanukkah Menorah Lighting, Dec 4 2007 - Video - C-SPAN.org". C-SPAN.org.
- Post, AP/ The Huffington (18 March 2010). "Rahm Emanuel Lights National Menorah At White House (PHOTOS)" – via Huff Post.
- "Biden at Hanukkah candle lighting: Jewish heritage is American heritage".