Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered his best wishes to downtown Chabad-Lubavitch emissary Rabbi Meir Chai Benhiyoun and his family prior to the celebration of the public celebration of the first night of Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, but skipped attending the lighting of the first candle of the public menorah that always takes place at Daley Plaza, the city's central square.
Instead, the former White House chief of staff for the Obama administration hosted the rabbi, his wife Rivka and his two youngest children in his mayoral chambers prior to the festivities.
Emanuel, who is the Windy City's first Jewish mayor, said that due to prior commitments he was unable to participate in the annual menorah-lighting ceremony.
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley previously assisted each year in kindling the giant, 32-foot menorah.
"A very warm and friendly encounter," was the way Rabbi Benhiyoun characterized the conversation with Emanuel. "I asked him about... the new challenges he is facing as Mayor. He told me, 'It really depends on how you face challenges. I see challenges as an opportunity to learn something new.' A humbling and uplifting approach," Benhiyoun called it, one he relates to as director of Chabad's downtown Chicago outreach operations.
While serving as a member of the White House staff, Emanuel last year traveled with his family to celebrate his son's Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.