In chilly weather on Tuesday, Dec. 12, the first night of the eight-day Jewish holiday, thousands attended the 2017 National Hanukkah Menorah lighting ceremony on the Ellipse. Hanukkah always begins at sunset on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, according to the Jewish lunar calendar.
This year marked the 39th lighting of the National Hanukkah Menorah, dating back to 1979 when Jimmy Carter was president. Hanukkah celebrates the Jewish Maccabees’ military victory over Greek-Syrian oppression more than 2,000 years ago. A candle is lit each night of the eight-day celebration, commemorating the miracle of one day’s supply of oil lasting a full eight days in the lamp following the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Braving bone-chilling winds, White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn helped light the candles atop the 30-foot-high National Menorah with the aid of a special elevator. He was flanked by Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), and his father, Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, the organization’s national director.
The United States Air Force Band and the “Three Cantors” provided the musical backdrop. Mushka Landa of Fairfield, Connecticut, and Elias Greenwood of Huntington Beach, California, read their prize-winning essays on “What Hanukkah Means to Me.” The popular Dreidelman made his usual appearance. A dreidel is a spinning top with, on its four sides, the first letters of the Hebrew words for “a great miracle happened there.” After the ceremony, attendees were treated to the traditional potato pancakes, known as latkes, and jelly doughnuts, known as sufganiyot.
View Jeff Malet’s photos from the National Menorah lighting ceremony by clicking on the photo icons below.