Menorah lighting on the Ellipse

Rabbi Shemtov, Itzhak Perlman, Jacob Lew, and Dreidelman all braved the cold weather yesterday to kick off the first night of Hanukkah at the Menorah lighting on the Ellipse.

According to the American Friends of Lubavitch – the hosts of the event – close to 4,000 people requested tickets to see the giant menorah lighting.

Each year, the top Jewish White House official serves as the ceremonial lighter of the menorah.  Last year, Rahm Emanuel had the honor.  Jacob Lew, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) held the Shamash this year.

Mr. Lew was called back to the White House shortly after lighting the menorah to continue working on an agreement between Congressional Republicans and Democrats on the Bush tax cuts.  But Lew’s absence was quickly filled by world famous violinist Itzhak Perlman, the three cantors, and the United States Navy Band.

Of course, according to this National Journal article, all of these famous performers were eclipsed by the legendary Dreidelman:

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.

And here Gather the Jews has a claim to fame.  Co-founder and director, Stephen Richer, served as this year’s Dreidelman, filling the large shoes left by fellow co-founder and director, Joshua Kaller, who served as last year’s Dreidelman.

One can only hope that Aaron Wolff is equal to the challenge for next year.

Lighting the National Menorah, image from WWLP.com

Washington Post photo gallery.
NBC coverage of event.
Fox News.

Picture of Dreidelman and the National Menorah, courtesy of Melissa Fishkin.