- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2004

The National Hanukkah Menorah will be lit Tuesday night in a special ceremony marking both the first day of Hanukkah and the National Menorah’s 25th anniversary.

Organizers expect 2,000 people, including representatives from all 50 states and dignitaries who have participated in past lighting ceremonies, to attend the ticketed event, which starts at 5 p.m.

The 32-foot-high menorah — as tall as Jewish law will allow — was first lit at the White House in 1979, with President Carter in attendance. Although President Bush, who is traveling, will not be there this year, organizers expect Gale A. Norton, secretary of the interior; Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat; and several other officials to attend.

“The whole idea of Hanukkah is to publicize the miracle that occurred, as well as our appreciation for and celebration of that miracle in the most public way possible,” said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, director of the American Friends of Lubavitch , which organizes the event. “This is unique in Jewish observances. While other observances need to be marked, it is not important as it is with Hanukkah to be so public.”

After the ceremony, those attending will be offered free hot Hanukkah latkes, doughnuts, menorah kits and dreidels .

Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights, celebrates the Jewish Maccabean army’s victory over the Syrians in 165 B.C. and the rededication of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem.

According to Jewish history, when the Jews tried to light the menorah after their victory, they found only one small flask of oil left — barely enough to last one day. But miraculously, the oil lasted eight full days.

Other Hanukkah traditions include the Jewish dreidel, a top-like game of chance, and foods such as potato pancakes called latkes and jelly doughnuts without the holes called sufganiyot.

This year also marks the first year of the National Menorah Council. Run by the National Menorah’s organizers, the American Friends of Lubavitch , the council will serve people across the country who are trying to establish their own community menorah.

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