"Today, many Americans are sacrificing to bring freedom and hope to the oppressed," Bush said before three candles were lighted on a 4-foot sterling silver candelabrum. "In this holiday season, we pray for the safety of our troops, for the success of their mission and for their speedy return home."
The candles were lighted by Menachem, Chaim and Miriam Felzenberg, the three eldest children of Shmuel Felzenberg. Felzenberg is serving in Iraq as the senior Jewish chaplain with the U.S. Army's 84th Engineer Battalion, from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. He is scheduled to return home in January.
The youngest Felzenberg girl played with the contents of her mother's purse and offered a toddler's unintelligible commentary, earning grins from Bush. "Well said," he joked.
Hanukkah commemorates the Jews' successful rebellion against suppression of their religion under the Syrian-Greek empire in 165 B.C. Led by the Maccabee family, the Jews drove the Greeks from Jerusalem and reclaimed the Jerusalem Temple for religious services.
The story says there was only enough oil to burn the temple menorah for one day, but that miraculously it burned for eight days. Accordingly, Jews light the menorah on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah.
Bush also met in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with about several rabbis and Jewish community leaders.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the president spoke of progress in the fight against terrorism, the administration's relations with Israel and effort to fight anti-Semitism.