The White House Hosts Its Annual Hanukkah Party with a Big Reform Presence

December 10, 2015Kate Bigam Kaput

The White House hosted its annual Hanukkah party last night, inviting representatives from the American Jewish community - including senior staff of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, pictured above - to join the first family in celebrating the Festival of Lights.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who lit the menorah, told the audience, "I have always celebrated Hanukkah together with my family and grandchildren, but if I must be away, I am pleased that it will be in the USA, alongside our strongest and closest ally." Watch video of the ceremony on C-SPAN.

Also in attendance was Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis, MO, who has been a central figure in the Reform Jewish community's activism on racial justice. Rabbi Talve led attendees in a Hanukkah blessing, but not before delivering a powerful and poignant address about civil rights and the ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ movement, among other pressing issues. Watch her address below or on C-SPAN.

In closing, Rabbi Talve told the crowd,

"The real miracle occurred when, knowing that there was not enough oil, we still had the holy chutzpah to light that first candle because we knew that goodness and godliness are beyond what we think we know and there is always a chance for something more and something new. The real miracle is that no matter how much violence there is in Paris or in California or in the streets of our nations, we will respond with more love and more understanding and more compassion, and we will see that the good in us has grown like the lights of Hanukkah and, in spite of all odds, like the Maccabees of old, we too - we, too - will win."

Representatives of the Reform Jewish community in attendance included: Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Steve Fox, chief executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; and Jeremy Cronig, president of the North American Federation of Temple Youth.

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