Joe Biden won't be riding the cherry picker to the top of the National Menorah Tuesday afternoon; instead he'll light the a symbolic shames candle from the ground while others will ride up to light the first candle of Hanukah for the 4 p.m. ceremony on the Ellipse behind he White House.
This will be the 35th anniversary of the first lighting of what President Reagan dubbed the "National Menorah." It was moved a bit closer to the White House this year (and a bit farther from the National Christmas Tree). I'm told there's no significance to that, but in Washington everyone is always jockeying for position and advantage. The Menorah had started out on the north side of the White House in Lafayette Park before moving south to the Ellipse several years ago.
Naturally, the vice president will give a speech – he's extending his outreach to Jews, always a solid base for him but more important as he thinks about 2016 and a possible job promotion. The program will also will feature performances by the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own"; The Three Cantors; recording artist Alex Clare; and Dreidelman and The Macabees.
Across the street at the White House President Obama will host a pair of invitation-only back-to-back Chanukah parties afterwards.
Admission to the Menorah lighting is free but tickets are required and can be obtained here or by calling 202-332-5600. Following the ceremony, hot traditional Chanukah latkes, donuts and free personal menorah kits and dreidels will be distributed.
Biden's former chief of staff and the current White House Ebola czar, Ron Klain, was reportedly responsible for getting the vice president to participate. Lighting the shames in previous years during the Obama administration were Michael Froman, the U.S. Trade Representative; Jeffrey Zients, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Jack Lew, OMB director and later Secretary of the Treasury, twice; and Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff. All, I'm told, rode the cherry picker to the top of the giant menorah to light the candles.