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Menorahs at White House receptions recall Holocaust

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two menorahs with Holocaust associations were used at White House Hanukkah receptions.

President Obama for the first time hosted two Hanukkah parties on Thursday, the last day of the holiday and, technically, after the final menorah lighting time.

The first session, in the afternoon, featured a menorah designed by Manfred Anson, who fled Nazi Germany in 1939 for Australia and joined his sister in New York in 1963. He became a collector of Americana and, in 1986, on the centennial of the Statue of Liberty, he designed a menorah made up of statuettes modeled on the statue. Lighting a menorah cast from Anson’s original mold was the family of Jacob Schmitter, who is deployed in Afghanistan.

The menorah used at the evening reception is from the former Czechoslovakia. Abraham and Hayyah Ettinger donated it to their synagogue, in Hrusov, in 1922. The Ettingers perished in the Holocaust. Lighting this menorah were survivors of the Holocaust from the former Czechoslovakia, Margit Meissner and Martin Weiss.

At the evening ceremony, Obama noted the passing of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, and also pledged to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

“Together with our Israeli friends, we’re determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he said.

“Building a future of security and peace is not easy,” Obama said. “But the story of Hanukkah, of survivors like Margit and Martin — leaders like Nelson Mandela — remind us that those who came before us overcame even greater obstacles than those that we face. So let’s take strength from their struggles and from their sacrifice. Let’s give thanks for miracles large and small.”

A “menurkey” — a menorah in the shape of a turkey — featured at both receptions. Its creator, 10-year-old Asher Weintraub of New York City, was a guest at the first reception, as was Dana Gitell, the Boston mom who trademarked the term “Thanksgivukkah.”

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