President Barack Obama issued a Hanukkah greeting on Friday -- ahead of the start of the Jewish holiday, which began Saturday at sundown -- saying "the meaning of this holiday has inspired an American tradition of religious freedom."
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, lasts eight days and commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in 165 BC by the Maccabees after its desecration by the Syrians. It is marked by the successive kindling of eight lights on the menorah.
Obama, who hosted more than 1,000 people during two Hanukkah receptions at the White House last week, issued a statement on Friday afternoon addressing how the values of the holiday apply to everyone, regardless of their faith:
As night falls over each of the next eight days, Jews in the United States, Israel, and around the world will gather to light their Hanukkah menorahs, display them proudly in the window, and recall the miracles of both ancient times and the present day.
"For more than two millennia, the story of Hanukkah has reminded the world of the Jewish people’s perseverance and the persistence of faith, even against daunting odds. For more than two centuries, the meaning of this holiday has inspired an American tradition of religious freedom -- one codified in the Bill of Rights and chronicled in the enduring promise President George Washington made in his letter to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island: that the United States "gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance."
May the flicker of each flame in every Menorah remind us all of the profound miracles in our own lives. And may the light of hope we shed continue to drive out darkness and brighten the futures we build for our families, our neighbors, our communities, and our world.
On behalf of Michelle and my family, Chanukah Sameach. Happy Hanukkah!