Editors' Note: Guest blogger Rabbi Kleinbaum is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, the world's largest synagogue for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
It was awe-inspiring to be in the Obama White House for its first Hanukkah celebration. A building built by African slaves is now inhabited by an African-American President! I still can't get over that reality. Yes, Virginia, the President and First Lady served latkes (mountains and mountains of them), but most of all they showed deep respect for and sensitivity to the Jewish community. I couldn't help but imagine how different the guest list for this party must have been from that of the last administration's. (Full Disclosure: I didn't get invited to any of the Bush parties.)
I loved roaming the Blue Room, the Green Room, and the Red Room. I loved the "sustainable" Christmas Trees that fill the White House (trees that are rooted in planters and will be re-planted after the season sans decorations).
In the Obama White House last week, the miracle of Hanukkah was palpable: a small vial of oil, only enough for one day, lasted for eight. It's a message of hope in the midst of despair. Go ahead, light the menorah, go ahead take a step even if you're not sure there is enough energy, time, money, compassion, support to see your work through to the end! President and Mrs. Obama embody that "Yes we can" miracle.
Alas, the story of Hanukkah has another "miracle" as well.