On Sunday, Nov. 28, thousands of people gathered at the Ellipse just south of the White House, in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah. ISRI and its members had the opportunity to supply a new menorah—a nine-branched lampstand that is central to the Jewish holiday—made from recycled aluminum.
During preparations for the 42nd year of the lighting ceremony, organizers realized that they needed to retire the earlier National Menorah because its structure was worn. Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), was interested in highlighting the importance of recycling, so last March he contacted ISRI president Robin Wiener.
“I’d never met him before, but he reached out because he knew of ISRI,” Wiener recalls. “He was looking to see if we were interested in helping create a new menorah made out of recycled aluminum.”
Wiener raised the question with ISRI’s Executive Committee, who saw it as a good opportunity to further raise awareness about recycling. The committee suggested that Wiener contact members who might be interested in helping support the effort with financial contributions. The association raised $55,000 to cover all the costs associated with the fabrication of the menorah from recycled aluminum. Participating ISRI members included Alter Trading Corp, headquartered in St. Louis; Venice, Ill.-based Becker Iron & Metal; BENLEE, of Romulus, Mich.; Connersville, Ind.-based Integrity Metals; Toledo, Ohio-based Kripke Enterprises; Lancaster, N.Y.-based Manitoba Corp.; Moline, Ill.-based Midland Davis Corp; Premier Metal Services of Chagrin Falls, Ohio; Shapiro Metals headquartered in St. Louis; Dallas-based Texas Recycling; Ken and Janet Cohen; and Sara and Joel Denbo.
ISRI Secretary/Treasurer Andy Golding of Kripke Enterprises, who worked closely with Wiener on the effort, saw the lighting of the first candles atop the menorah. “It was a wonderful experience,” he says. “We were honored to be part of the building of the National Menorah and to be involved in something that will be on the Ellipse of the White House.”
At the lighting ceremony Shemtov noted ISRI’s contribution and the importance of using recycled material in the menorah. “It was incredible to hear how important it was for [the organization] that it included recycled material,” Golding says.
The evening featured a keynote address from second gentleman Douglas Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris. Emhoff discussed the importance of celebrating Hanukkah, especially to counter antisemitism.
“I was really touched by his speech,” Wiener says. “He talked about the need for us as a country to move beyond hatred. While he spoke, I watched my mother and saw how intently she was listening to the speech. It really resonated with everyone.”
Conducted by 1st Lt. Brandon Hults, the U.S. Air Force Band and the Three Cantors—Jeff Nadel, Avi Albrecht, and Aryeh Leib Hurwitz—supplied music for the event. Two winners of the National Menorah Essay Contest read their entries; and received a merit coin from Army chaplain Capt. Mendy Stern. The event also included a general appeal for people to register as potential bone marrow transplant donors.
Golding reflects how important it is for ISRI to have contributed to the National Menorah. “When the White House serves as a backdrop to anything it’s a pretty big deal,” he says. “It was extremely special for me and the other ISRI members who contributed. The project was a win for everyone involved, including the environment.”
A plaque acknowledging members’ contributions will be designed and affixed to the menorah for next year’s celebration, during which ISRI hopes to bring more members to the event.
The National Hanukkah Menorah Lighting ceremony began in 1979 under President Jimmy Carter and has continued under Democratic and Republican administrations. Prominent guests have included presidents, vice presidents, and members of the Cabinet, Congress, and the diplomatic corps, as well as senior administration officials, international dignitaries, and celebrities.