OMB Director Lew Lights National Menorah Outside of White House
Washington - Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew, the highest-ranking Jewish official in the Obama administration, took a minute away from dealing with the expiring Bush tax cuts to light the National Hanukkah Menorah on the Ellipse in front of the White House on a wintry Wednesday night.
Strong winds interfered with the ceremony, delaying its start as organizers struggled to secure speaker mounts. As Lew and two rabbis ascended in a cherry-picker to light the 30-foot menorah, one of the rabbis lost his hat to a strong gust. His kippah, a traditional Jewish head covering, soon followed. Lew, who had been complimented by the rabbi as a dedicated and selfless public servant, proved his worth by handing the rabbi his own kippah and pulling a baseball cap from his coat. Heavy winds also blew out the National Menorah, which had to be relit.
Washington, D.C. Mayor-elect Vincent Gray attended and poked fun at his campaign slogan by declaring "one Hanukkah, one city," and renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman closed the ceremony by playing the traditional Jewish song "Oseh Shalom" and "God Bless America."
Other dignitaries in attendance included Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Norm Eisen, President Obama's former ethics czar who is in line to become ambassador to the Czech Republic. But the most recognizable attendee may have been Dreidelman, a man dressed up as a giant blue dreidel, who drew the loudest round of applause.
The event closed with latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (jelly donuts), the traditional foods of the holiday. The annual tradition of the National Menorah began in 1979, when President Jimmy Carter participated in the first lighting.