The White House has published an official request for assistance in locating menorahs to be used during the official candle-lighting ceremonies on the Jewish festival of Hanukkah this year. The request was posted on the White House website on Veteran’s Day by Matt Nosanchuk, the Associate Director of Public Engagement for the White House.
The initiative is a new one for the White House, which is publicly approaching the world via their online site and asking for submissions regarding menorahs (candelabras) that have special historical or social meaning.
“We’re looking for a special and unique menorah that tells a story to be part of our candle lighting ceremony. A story about family, about community, about the long Jewish cultural tradition in the United States, Israel, or around the world,” wrote Nosanchuk in his request.
In the statement to the public, Nosanchuk made clear that the White House is not formally inviting the owner of the menorah to attend the event, nor are they footing the bill for the shipping costs to and from the White House. They will, however, guarantee the safety of the menorah for the time that it is at the White House.
The White House has requested that interested parties also send a written story about the menorah that they wish to submit, explaining why it is special. It also requests high resolution photos of the piece in order to help with the selection process, as well as the information of the menorah’s owners.
Previous years’ menorahs used in the state candle-lighting ceremony include a menorah from a synagogue damaged in Hurricane Sandy in 2012, a menorah that survived the Holocaust and has been preserved in a museum in Prague in 2013, and two menorahs from Israel in 2014 that symbolized coexistence and diversity in the Jewish state.
The menorah is the central piece of the yearly candle-lighting ceremony in which the President of the United States and the First Lady participate in each year. The menorah is used to shed light at the darkest time of the year on the Jewish calendar, and spread the story of God’s miracles and the ritual purification of the second Temple during the the revolt of the Maccabees, which occurred some 2181 years ago.
The US is not unique in holding candle-lighting ceremonies to celebrate Hanukkah. Other countries such as Canada and England also hold Hanukkah ceremonies in which heads of state light the menorah. However, this is the first time an official invitation for submission of menorahs has been sent out by the White House.