The White House marked the holiday of Chanukah this week in a special ceremony which also used a very special menorah.
The menorah was generously loaned from Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans, a synagogue that is over 100 years old. Beth Israel was severely impacted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The menorah was later discovered by members of the synagogue covered in mold, filth and sewage after the hurricane. The menorah was restored by a local silversmith and re-lit for the first time in December of 2007.
Rabbi Uri Topolosky of Congregation Beth Israel said that he felt especially blessed to be present at the White House celebration because of the fact that the restored menorah was used during the candle lighting ceremony.
“[The menorah] became a very powerful symbol of hope for us, just like the ancient story of Chanukah, where the Jews came to a Temple which was destroyed and overrun and they found just small things that could remind them of their past and propel them into the future,” said Rabbi Topolosky.
He added that the menorah symbolizes Beth Israel’s commitment to rebuild the synagogue for the future despite the fact that everything in it was destroyed in the hurricane.