- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2003

Hundreds of people came to the Ellipse yesterday to take part in the American Friends of Lubavitch’s 25th annual menorah-lighting ceremony, marking the festival of Hanukkah.

“The spirit of the kids and adults alike in the audience was great,” said Abraham Shemtov, the group’s national director. “I’ve been involved from the beginning, so I am glad to have the opportunity to celebrate.”

The festival commemorates the victory in 165 B.C. of the Jewish Maccabean army over Antiochus Epiphanes and the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem. Antiochus, the Greek king of Syria, outlawed Jewish rituals and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods.

Yesterday afternoon’s event on the grassy expanse outside the White House featured musical performances by the U.S. Marine Band and the Three Cantors.

A man outfitted as a 6-foot dreidel, known as “Dreidelman”, also was there to greet guests and pose for pictures.

Visitors received small menorah sets, jelly doughnuts and latkes — traditional Hanukkah potato pancakes.

Nina Spiegelman, 34, of Gaithersburg, attended the ceremony for the first time with her 5-year-old son, Matthew.

“It was very beautiful, very happy,” she said. “We came because we want the miracle of Hanukkah to be spread all over, for our home and in Israel.”

Franklin Marks, 58, of Silver Spring, said the event was a success.

“It was very good, a nice show of appreciation for religious freedom,” he said.

The event drew visitors from across the country and was held on the third night of Hanukkah.

Joshua B. Bolten, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, participated in the lighting and addressed the crowd.

“It was a terrific, inspirational event,” he said. “The event had a lot of reverence in its meaning. It signified a triumph, especially for those serving in Baghdad and overseas.”

Hanukkah, which is Hebrew for “dedication,” also is known as the Feast of Dedication or Festival of Lights.

On each night of Hanukkah, the menorah is lit to commemorate a miracle that occurred after the Jews proclaimed victory over the Syrian armies. When Jews came to rededicate the temple, which the Syrians had defiled, they found only one small flask of oil with which to light the menorah. The flask had enough oil for only one day, yet the lamp burned for eight days, according to Judaic scripture.

On the first night of Hanukkah, one candle is lighted. On subsequent nights, another is lighted, culminating with all of the candles being lighted on the eighth night. Candles are put in the menorah from right to left and lighted from left to right. The highest candle, called the shamas, is used to light the other candles. Blessings are recited each night before the candles are lighted.

Esti Shemtov, 12, said the event was inspirational.

“It really showed the true meaning of Hanukkah,” he said. “I’m happy I could be a part of it.”

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