December 19th, 1979. In Washington, D.C., the temperature was freezing. In Tehran, over 50 Americans were being held hostage in what would later be known as the “Iranian Hostage Crisis.” It was the fourth night of Chanukah.
It was on that night President Carter inaugurated the National Menorah in Lafayette Park.
“Tonight we pray… not only for the 50 American hostages, for whom our prayers are constant, but also for men and women worldwide who lack freedom and whose lives might be in danger,” the President stated in his remarks.
Nearly fifty years later, the message of the Public Menorah remains as important as ever. Whether or not you’ve attended a public lighting before, I encourage you to make an effort and attend one this year.
The Public Menorah symbolizes Jewish pride and inspiration. Standing before it, we express gratitude for the ancient miracle of Chanukah and for living openly as Jews in a time where our light can shine upon the world around us.
Come out this year to celebrate the gift of religious freedom and ensure that no Jew ever needs to hide their identity.
The Menorah represents a universal message of the freedom of the human spirit—freedom from tyranny and oppression. It signifies the ultimate victory of good over evil, as “a little light dispels a lot of darkness.”
Come out this year because the world needs to hear the message of light over darkness now more than ever.
For the United States
American culture is enriched by the diverse ethnic cultures that contribute in their unique ways to its material and spiritual richness. Thus, our national motto, E pluribus unum, means “from the many, one.”
Come out this year to contribute to the American spirit and ensure that the light and hope our people share continue to be integral to our national way of life.
Rabbi Avrohom Shemtov, at the Menorah Lighting alongside President Carter, remarked, “Chanukah reminds us that quality will triumph over quantity, and commitment and dedication will prevail over numbers.”
This is a message we need now as ever.