OBAMA SCALES DOWN WHITE HOUSE HANUKKAH CELEBRATION


(photo by Luke Sharritt/New York Times)

International Jerusalem Post

Dec 17, 2009 9:38 | Updated Dec 17, 2009 16:30

Obama: Hanukkah struggle inspires us

US President Barack Obama and his wife hosted a Hannukah candle-lighting ceremony at the White House on Wednesday night.

During the ceremony, attended by Jewish community leaders, friends and White House staff, the president promoted ideals of freedom, tolerance and justice.

Emphasizing the historical story of Jewish revolt, the president said, “It was more than 2,000 years ago, in the ancient city of Jerusalem, that a small band of believers led by Judah Maccabee rose up and defeated their foreign oppressors – liberating the city and restoring the faith of its people,” according to the White House blog. In contrast to a candle-lighting held during the George W. Bush’s presidency,

the White House this year closed the ceremony to the press, and only released official photos and statements after the event.

The White House Hanukkah party had come under scrutiny after a guest list of only 400 had been made. Following public discord over the size of the party, the White House expanded the guest list. A White House spokesman said that around 500 people had been invited.

The initial list was roughly half the total invited last year, according to a former Jewish liaison in the Bush White House.  (George W. Bush started the Hanukkah tradition in the White House)

Pres. Bush lighting Hanukkah candles in 2007

“There were certainly more than 800 invited [last year],” said the liaison, a position whose duties include managing the Hanukkah party guest list.

However, local Jewish leaders told the Jerusalem Post that White House officials had previously told them the numbers were being reduced from last year, citing reasons including the economic situation and high costs involved in providing kosher food.

But some took the difference in the parties’ sizes to raise questions about the Obama administration’s relationship with the Jewish community, which has experienced some rocky moments in the administration’s first year in office.

Hilary Leila Krieger, Jerusalem Post Correspondent, contributed to this report

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