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Public Papers - 1990

Remarks on the Observance of Hanukkah

1990-12-12

Thank you, rabbis, for those lovely words and for the gift of this lovely menorah. It's wonderful to see the students -- the Gesher Jewish Day School. I'm so glad you could join us all here today to sing. You haven't sung yet, have you? [Laughter] Oh, good, because I didn't want to miss that.

Let me say that Barbara and I and Marilyn and Dan Quayle want to just welcome everybody here to the White House for the second year of these Hanukkah celebrations. It's a holiday of hope, for it shows us the glory of God in our own lives and the power of miracles in the world. Last year at this ceremony, we spoke of our efforts to help Vladimir Raiz and other brave refuseniks -- help them leave the Soviet Union. By Passover, Vladimir was a free man. But the story really doesn't stop there. In addition to Zev Raiz, more than 150,000 Soviet Jews emigrated this year to new homes, new lives of liberty and dignity.

In fact, I am told that one kid, one child with us today from the Gesher Jewish Day School, Lidia Shestopalova -- where's Lidia? Here she is, right there. Now, Lidia, if that's -- oh, I'm so glad you're here. But she recently arrived from the Soviet Union. And so, we welcome you to this country, and we continue to pray for all those who are seeking freedom. Thank you, Lidia. Now, sit down and be relaxed here. We're so glad you're here. And you're so beautiful.

The ancient story of the first Hanukkah is one of victory over persecution, aggression, and intolerance. But the struggle has continued for your people through the centuries. In fact, the first wave of Jewish immigrants came to this country as early as 1654 to live a life free from intolerance and persecution.

Two hundred years ago, George Washington wrote a letter to a Jewish congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, in which he said the United States Government would give ``to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.'' In this new country, Washington said, ``Everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.'' These words embody the American ideal of freedom of worship, an ideal that we reaffirm here today and that we pass on to the generations that follow us.

I understand that these kids -- I guess you're next -- are going to sing for us. I'm looking forward to it. I know Barbara is, and I know Marilyn and I know Dan are as well. I was pretty good last year at this game, dreidel. Some said it was beginner's luck, but I'm ready for that. Also, I'm relying heavily on my partner here to prevail. [Laughter] He's a pro in this. So, why don't we just have a few songs, and then we'll have a little match here.

But the main thing is, thank you for coming. Thank you for coming here to the White House at this very special time of year. And thank you, rabbis, for your inspirational words, your prayers, and being with us here today, too. And Happy Hanukkah to everyone. Now, let the show begin.

Note: The President spoke at 11:45 a.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

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