For the second time in office, US President Barack Obama has used a Hanukkah menorah from a hurricane-ravaged area to conduct the official White House Hanukkah celebration.
The 90-year old, seven-foot brass menorah was brought from the Conservadox Temple Israel in Long Beach, NY, one of the religious items which was not destroyed in Hurricane Sandy, according to a report by JTA. It was untouched by the elements due to its location on an upper floor of the synagogue.
The menorah used by the Obama administration in 2010 came from a New Orleans synagogue ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.
“This 90-year-old menorah survived, and I am willing to bet it will survive another 90 years, and another 90 years after that,” Obama was quoted by JTA as saying before the lighting of the candles Thursday night at the White House Chanukah party. “So tonight, it shines as a symbol of perseverance, and as a reminder of those who are still recovering from Sandy’s destruction — a reminder of resilience and hope and the fact that we will be there for them as they recover.”
Jarrod Bernstein, Director of Jewish Outreach at the White House, chose the menorah for the lighting ceremony during a family visit in New York, where he formerly served under Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a community outreach official. His wife, Democratic National Committee Finance Director Hildy Kuryk, recommended finding a menorah from a NY synagogue hit by Hurricane Sandy.
“The story of what’s going on there — the rededication and re-sanctification of these communities, there’s definitely a correlation” with Chanukah, Bernstein was quoted as saying.
Temple Israel has reportedly sustained $5 million in damage, only a portion of which will be covered by insurance.