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National Menorah lit in DC celebrates first night of Hanukkah

Thousands were in attendance for the lighting ceremony, including Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff --the first Jewish spouse of any American president or vice president.

WASHINGTON — The Festival of Lights kicked off in D.C. with a clear view of the White House on a chilly Sunday evening in the District. The National Menorah was lit, brightly celebrating the first night of Hanukkah with its recycled-aluminum frame. 

Second Gentlemen Doug Emhoff spoke at the ceremony, which had thousands in attendance and a record number of people watching virtually, National Menorah Media stated via press release. 

“May this festival of lights bring blessings upon you and your loved ones over these next eight nights. From our family to yours, have a Happy Hanukkah!” Emhoff tweeted the afternoon of the ceremony. He is the first Jewish spouse of an American president or vice president.

Emhoff expressed his appreciation for seeing the event occur in such a prestigious space, especially in the face of antisemitism. 

“American Jews, and Jews worldwide, continue to experience hostility, discrimination and violence. As the Vice-President said just a few weeks ago, we must fight antisemitism and hate of every kind,” he said at the ceremony.

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The eight-day celebration commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, which occurred in the second century B.C. after the Maccabees revolted following its desecration by their Syrian-Greek oppressors. 

The holiday can be spelled as Hanukkah, Chanukah or Hanukah - all are English transliterations for the Hebrew word. The holiday is often celebrated with traditional games, foods and gifts. 

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In keeping with the tradition, hot latkes, donuts and free menorah kits and guides were distributed to the crowd after the lighting. While supplies last, anyone who requests one can still receive a free menorah kit by emailing info@nationalmenorah.org (Contributions to support the National Menorah can also be made at this site). Musical selections were also performed live at the ceremony.

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Two talented children also had the chance to present their winning essays, submitted through  an essay contest for children that answered the prompt “What Chanukah means to me.” This year’s winners were 3rd grader Chava Moscowitz, from Chicago, (pictured below) along with 5th grader Maya Benshimol, from New York City. 

Credit: National Menorah Media

Hanukkah will end this year on the evening of Monday, Dec. 6. Watch the recorded National Menorah lighting ceremony in its entirety by clicking here.

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