Watch: Obama hosts Hanukkah reception

President Barack Obama hosts the White House Hanukkah reception for the final time as president.

Arutz Sheva Staff,

Barack and Michelle Obama host their final Hanukkah reception
Barack and Michelle Obama host their final Hanukkah reception

U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday afternoon hosted a Hanukkah reception at the White House, one of two on the day.

These mark the final two receptions he will host as president.

“I figure we’ve got to be first because we’re about ten days early,” joked Obama at the start of his remarks. The holiday of Hanukkah does not begin until the evening of December 24 but the White House chose to hold the reception early due to the proximity of the first night of Hanukkah to the Christmas holiday.

“This is the season that we appreciate the many miracles, large and small, that have graced our lives throughout generations, and to recognize that the most meaningful among them is our freedom. The first chapter of the Hanukkah story was written 22 centuries ago, when rulers banned religious rituals and persecuted Jews who dared to observe their faith. Which is why today we are asked not only to light the menorah, but to proudly display it -- to publicize the mitzvah,” he continued.

“Everybody in America can understand the spirit of this tradition. Proudly practicing our religion, whatever it might be -- and defending the rights of others to do the same -- that's our common creed. That’s what families from coast to coast confirm when they place their menorah in the window -- not to share the candles’ glow with just your family, but also with your community and with your neighbors.

“The story of Hanukkah, the story of the Jewish people, the story of perseverance -- these are one and the same. Elie Wiesel taught us that lesson probably better than just about anybody. In one of his memories of the Holocaust, Elie watched a fellow prisoner trade his daily ration of bread for some simple materials with which to piece together a makeshift menorah. And he wrote that he couldn’t believe the sacrifices this man was making to observe the holidays. A stunned Elie asked him, ‘Hanukkah in Auschwitz?’ And the man replied, ‘Especially in Auschwitz,’” said Obama, recalling Wiesel who passed away this year.

“The world lost my friend, Elie Wiesel, this year. We lost a keeper of our collective conscience. But we could not be more honored today to be joined by his beloved family.

“Through centuries of exile and persecution, and even the genocide of families like the Wiesels endured, the Hanukkah candles have been kindled. Each wick an answer to the wicked. Each light a signal to the world that yours is an inextinguishable faith,” said Obama.

He concluded his remarks by saying he appreciated celebrating so many Hanukkahs in the White House.

“You know, at the beginning of my presidency, some critics thought it would last for only a year. But -- miracle of miracles -- it has lasted eight years. It's lasted eight whole years. Nes Gadol Haya Po,” said Obama in Hebrew.

“As many of you know, the name ‘Hanukkah’ comes from the Hebrew word for ‘dedication.’ So we want to thank you again for your dedication to our country, to the historic progress that we’ve made, to the defense of religious freedom in the United States and around the world.”