Rabbi uses National Menorah lighting to trash Obama UN move

The rabbi in charge of the National Hanukkah Menorah lighting used the ceremony, held Sunday just steps from the White House, to criticize the Obama administration’s decision to allow the United Nations to pass a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and portions of Jerusalem as illegal.

Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch, turned an Obama administration official’s speech about “fighting darkness with light” on its head, evoking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who has had an antagonistic relationship with President Obama — and urging Jews not to despair about the “darkness” cast by the United Nations vote.

Shemtov spoke after remarks by Adam Szubin, acting treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, and the Obama administration’s representative Sunday at the event.

Szubin delivered a short speech focusing mainly on the significance and symbology of candles and light as they pertain to Hanukkah and later helped to light a 30-foot menorah.

“Secretary Szubin spoke before of fighting darkness with light,” Shemtov said. “I remember those words being spoken to a particular man by the rabbi many many years ago on Simchat Torah, an annual Jewish holiday which marks the conclusion of one reading of the Torah and beginning of another.

“The rabbi told him you are working in a place where there is great grief and darkness, but remember that in that place of darkness, you can only counter it by lighting a candle. By creating light,” Shemtov continued. “That man was Benjamin Netanyahu, and he was at the time the ambassador to the United Nations.”

Shemtov then went on to bring up Friday’s 14-0 U.N. Security Council vote. The Obama administration abstained from voting, allowing the measure to pass and marking a significant shift in U.S. policy.

“So as I know that some of us are so sad at what happened there with regard to Israel,” Shemtov said. “We must remember that the way to counter any darkness, any disappointment is not with harsh rhetoric, not with anger, but when we create light, the darkness dissipates.”

Sunday was the first full day of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights, and the American Friends of Lubavitch celebrates by holding its annual event to light the National Hanukkah Menorah. The event included the lighting of the 30-foot menorah, as well as songs, men dressed as Maccabees standing as ceremonial guards, and a “Dreidleman” dancing to the Dreidle Song.

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