Washington (Dec. 21)
Administration officials were conspicuous by their absence at the third annual lighting of the national menorah in Lafayette Square directly across the street from the White House yesterday afternoon.
The lack of representation from the Reagan Administration was in contrast to previous years — the festivities at the first lighting at the tall nine-branched brass menorah erected by the American Friends of Lubavitch in 1979; and last year when Stuart Eizenstat and Alfred Moses represented the Carter Administration.
Directly across the street in the White House, President and Mrs. Reagan were hosting a gala afternoon featuring young opera singers from the New York City Opera Company. The MC was director Beverly Sills. The program in the festively decorated East Room ended with the singing of Christmas carols. In spite of chilly temperatures, as well, a crowd of over 100 Jews of all ages gathered for the lighting and dancing to the accompaniment of Kol Chaim Hassidic Orchestra of Baltimore, Maryland. The traditional blessings were led by Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan of the Rockville, Maryland, Lubavitch Chabad House together with the young students.
Rabbi Abraham Shem Tov of the Philadelphia Lubavitch community then was lifted in a cherry picker to light by torch the first taper, a lamp filled with pure oil. An additional electrically lit candle will be lit each succeeding night of Chanukah.
In remarks before the ceremony, Shem Tov recounted the Chanukah story and also referred to the situation in Poland. He said that as Jews all over the world light their menorahs, “let us rededicate ourselves to the principles for which Chanukah stands and thereby we will see a world that marches to the light of Ha-Shem, a world of peace and harmony and unity and peace for Jews the world over.”
In another part of the city, several thousand people attended a menorah lighting sponsored by the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington and relay runners from the area youth groups took part in the annual Chanukah Torch Run, carrying a torch from the Israel Embassy in northwest Washington to the center of Rockville, Maryland. This torch was originally lit in Modi’in in Israel, the ancient home of the Maccabees.