By Justin Vinueza, Grade 7
The celebration of the National Hanukkah Memorial in Washington D.C is one of the biggest celebrations in the United States in December. This celebration started during the presidency of Jimmy Carter in 1979, and has been an important tradition for Washington D.C. ever since. Each year at the start of Hanukkah, the ceremony kicks off a festival of lights. A band playing trumpets welcomes the people who gather for this event.
The 42nd lighting of the Menorah took place on November 30 of this year with Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, husband to Vice-President Kamala Harris, lighting the first candle as thousands stood nearby and watched. Rabbi Levi Shemtov, started the celebration talking about the memories of Hanukkah and its history. He talked about lessons he learned throughout his life in relation to Hanukkah. The rabbi said, “When a challenge comes before you, do not respond with fear or weakness. You look and discover the strength that maybe you yourself don’t even have and you figure out how to make it work in the best way possible.”
After he spoke, Second Gentleman Doug Emholf continued the celebration. He said that he was thankful for being in the celebration and thanked everyone for taking their time to support it. He talked about how Jews suffered through the years and with the epidemic and how Vice President, Kamala Harris, will improve their lives. This celebration lasted from 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm. At the end of this celebration, the lighting of the Menorah took place. After that, the people started singing “God Bless America ” and the celebration ended.
The lighting of the candles represents the gifts of faith, hope, and joy/light bestowed on the Jews by God. The nine branches are lit up eight in a row and the ninth one represents the Shamash. The Shamash is a celebration Jews celebrate during Hanukkah. This branch is also usually separated from the rest of the eight candles. The other eight branches represent the eight holy flames. The eight holy flames are the representation of God and one day being the Sabbath Day, which is also the ninth branch. The lighting also welcomes Jews and people around the world, so they can be together and celebrate Hanukkah.
This is a celebration kids of all ages can enjoy. Some of the festivities include music, other activities, eating, and speeches during the celebration. Among the most popular things to eat on this day are Potato pancakes, which is a Yiddish meal. Some activities for adults are the JJC Chanukah celebration, Chanukah Festival in Alexandria, Matzo Ball, and Chan. For example JJC Chanukah is a celebration where there is a lot of music, crafts, and a sugar cookie kit which people get to collect at the end of the celebration. It is a highly recommended, memorable celebration to attend. According to Second Gentlemen Doug Emhoff, “It is an honor to be here and a memory I will never forget.”