Framingham Rabbi Laurence Bazer lit a 90-year-old menorah from a temple on Long Island that was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy at a Hanukkah party at the White House Thursday night.
The brass menorah survived a 10-foot storm surge that destroyed a chapel, a library, numerous religious books and six Torah scrolls at Temple Israel in Long Beach, according to the congregation’s Rabbi, David S. Bauman to the New York Times.
The Framingham Rabbi survived a tour of duty in Afghanistan to be at the White House celebration hosted by President Barack Obama and First lady Michelle Obama.
President Obama told the assembled crowd that Hanukkah is a story of "resilience and optimism" and that the menorah and the rabbi are perfect examples of both.
"Badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy ... tonight it shines as a symbol of perseverance and as a reminder of those who are still recovering from Sandy's destruction," said the President.
The menorah is a "source of inspiration and courage of all those dreaming of a better future," said President Obama, who said the rabbi knows that first-hand.
"We had hoped the Rabbi would join us last year to light the candles but he wasn't able to make it. We don't get that very often. Usually, when we invite people he comes," said the president.
"But we gave him another chance as he had a pretty good excuse last time. Last Hanukkah, Rabbi Bazer, who happens to be the joint forces chaplain for Massachusetts National Guard was four months into his deployment in Afghanistan," said the President.
The President told the crowd the Rabbi last year lit a custom-built electric menorah in Kabul and was the only Rabbi in Afghanistan.
"The Rabbi stands here alongside this menorah both as a symbol of hope, perseverance and determination and duty," said the President. He "reminds us that there are sacrifices involved in defending our values."
Rabbi Bazer said he was happy to be at the White House for the sixth night of Hanukkah, as this was the sixth year the White House had held a Hanukkah celebration.
He said a prayer and then lit the menorah. (Editor's Note: Video from the White House celebration is uploaded with this report.)
The White House has a tradition of selecting menorahs with meaningful history.
Last year, the menorah displayed at the Hanukkah party was one built at a displaced persons camp in Europe after World War II. In 2010, officials selected a menorah salvaged from a synagogue destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.