HANUKKAH LAMP FROM THE JEWISH MUSEUM’S COLLECTIONS LIT AT THE WHITE HOUSE
On the basis of a request from First Lady Michelle Obama, who toured Prague’s Jewish Town in April during an official visit to Prague by President Barack Obama, the Jewish Museum loaned a rare Hanukkah lamp from its collections for a celebration of the Jewish Festival of Lights in the White House. On the evening of 16 December – the sixth day of Hanukkah – the US President and First Lady hosted a special reception at the White House for around 500 representatives of the American Jewish community, at which six candles on the lamp were kindled, nearly seventy years after they were last used. The candles were lit by Ethan and Esther Moran, the children of Scott Moran, Commander of the US navy in Iraq.
In his speech at this event, President Barack Obama recalled not only the story of the Maccabees, but also the further struggles of the Jewish people for freedom. He pointed out that Jews have lit the Hanukkah candles for more than 2,000 years “in times of peace, and in times of persecution – in concentration camps and ghettos; war zones and unfamiliar lands”, as a “a triumph of the few over the many; of right over might; of the light of freedom over the darkness of despair”. The President went on to say that the light of the Hanukkah candles “inspires us to hope beyond hope; to believe that miracles are possible even in the darkest of hours,” and that this message of Hanukkah “invites all of us to rededicate ourselves to improving the lives of those around us, spreading the light of freedom and tolerance wherever oppression and prejudice exist.”
The Hanukkah lamp that was lit at the White House was made by Cyril Schillberger in 1873 and was presumably donated to a congregation in the Moravian town of Prostějov. It is a reminder of the tragic period of the Shoah, when it was sent to the wartime Central Jewish Museum in Prague along with other ceremonial objects from the abolished Jewish communities and associations in Nazi-occupied Bohemia and Moravia. These confiscated items now form a substantial portion of the Jewish Museum in Prague’s collections.
Hanukkah lamp, Master CS (Cyrillus Schillberger ?), Vienna, Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1873, Inv. No. 2.701.
The Director of the Jewish Museum in Prague Leo Pavlát is handing over the Hanukkah lamp to Chargé d'Affaires of the Embassy of the United States of America Mary Thompson-Jones
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch as a child lights the Hanukkah candles at a reception in the White House, 16 December, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton).