President Barack Obama says Hanukkah is a reminder that of all the blessings enjoyed in the U.S., the most meaningful is freedom.
Obama and the first lady hosted a pair of Hanukkah receptions, his final as president, with Jewish leaders and rabbis at the White House.
The president noted the story of Hanukkah shows that the story of the Jewish people is one of perseverance. Families putting candles in their windows are embracing the freedom to proudly practice their religion and defending the rights of others to do so, he said.
Joined by relatives of the late poet and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who died in June, Obama revealed that this year's menorah was made by Wiesel's grandaughter Shira Wiesel.
"And as is appropriate to the spirit of the season, it’s made of simple materials. It's got bolts and tiles and glue. And it looks like some balsa wood," Obama joked.
The president thanked the Jewish community for celebrating so many Hanukkahs with the first family at the White House, joking that "at the beginning of my presidency, some critics thought it would last for only a year. But miracle of miracles, it has lasted eight whole years."
Relatives of Shimon Peres also attended. Obama flew to Jerusalem in September to attend the funeral for the former Israeli president.