The U.S. National Menorah was lit in front of the White House on Sunday, the first night of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, who is the first Jewish spouse of a U.S. president or vice president, attended the lighting.

“Hanukkah is not just a holiday, it is a time for hope, freedom and love. On behalf of the president, the first lady, the vice president and myself, Happy Hanukkah, everyone. Thank you so much for having me,” Emhoff told the gathered crowd.

In a statement released earlier Sunday, President Joe Biden said, “Much like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah is a holiday dedicated to the expression of gratitude for the blessings and miracles in our lives – big and small, seen and unseen, from ancient times until the present day.”

“At its core, Hanukkah recounts a story at the heart of the human spirit – one that is inherently Jewish and undeniably American. It commemorates how even the most fragile flame can sustain a tradition and nourish the soul of a people,” the statement said. 

Earlier this month, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Emhoff, affixed a mezuzah – a tube containing the text of the Shema prayer that Jews traditionally attach to their doorposts – at the executive residence.

Sharing photos in a tweet, Emhoff wrote: “For us, and for everyone, Thanksgiving is a time for reflection on the past year. One of my favorite memories was when our family visited and together we hung a mezuzah on the front door of the Vice President’s Residence.

He also tweeted a photo Sunday night of he and Harris lighting a menorah at their home, which is located at the U.S. Naval Observatory in northwest Washington.

In 1979, then-President Jimmy Carter was the first U.S. leader to light a large menorah outside the White House near the National Mall. 

Some material for this report came from The Associated Press.

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