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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

December 19, 2014  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Hanukkah celebrations

Release of Alan Gross adds joy to White House reception
By BOB FRYER Jewish Press


President Obama speaking at the first of two White House Hanukkah parties on Dec. 17 and the ceremony from the vantage point of Chabad of Clearwater Rabbi Levi Hodakov. President Obama speaking at the first of two White House Hanukkah parties on Dec. 17 and the ceremony from the vantage point of Chabad of Clearwater Rabbi Levi Hodakov. Chabad of Clearwater Rabbi Levi Hodakov was surprised and delighted to be invited to a Hanukkah reception at the White House on Wednesday, Dec. 17, the first day of Hanukkah, and he said the occasion was made even more joyous by the release that day of Alan Gross, a Jewish man held prisoner in Cuba for five years.

Rabbi Hodakov said he had learned of the release of Gross before he got to the White House reception, but was not sure if all in the crowd of 550 at the reception knew of Gross’ freedom until President Obama announced it at the event.

“I want to begin with today’s wonderful news,” Obama told those attending. “I’m told that in the Jewish tradition, one of the great mitzvahs is pidyon shvuyim. My Hebrew is not perfect, but I get points for trying. But it describes the redemption, the freeing, of captives. And that’s what we’re celebrating today, because after being unjustly held in Cuba for more than five years, American Alan Gross is free.”

“As happy as everyone was to just be at the reception,” Rabbi Hodakov said, “there was a lot of happiness because of the release of Alan Gross. The appreciation and applause of the crowd when the President made the announcement was tremendous. I will leave it up to politicians as to our new Cuba policy, but the news of the release was joyous.”

Rabbi Hodakov went to the first of two Hanukkah receptions at the White House that day, of the two Hanukkah receptions at the White House that day. For the rabbi, it was a whirlwind experience, flying in the morning of the party and catching a flight home soon after Obama spoke.


Rabbi Levi Hodakov of Clearwater, right, with his guest, Rabbi Shua Rosenstein, at the White House Hanukkah reception. Rabbi Levi Hodakov of Clearwater, right, with his guest, Rabbi Shua Rosenstein, at the White House Hanukkah reception. Rabbi Hodakov said he received an invitation out of the blue on Friday, Dec. 12 and he scrambled to book flights, get his suit cleaned, shoes polished and be ready. He was allowed to bring a guest, and said since his wife had to tend to their children, he invited a friend, Rabbi Shua Rosenstein, director of the Chabad at Yale University.

The reception featured two huge buffet offerings of food, all glatt kosher and including latkes. In his remarks, Obama noted that he heard the latkes were outstanding, but “not as good as your mom’s.”

Rabbi Hodakov agreed the latkes were good, but said with no intention of disrespect, he believes the latkes served by Chabad of Clearwater at its ice cream menorah lighting party the night before on Clearwater Beach were better.


Rachel Rankin and Simon Boses, Lego menorah building coordinator, help some children assemble a section of the hanukkiah Sunday, Dec. 14 at Philip Benjamin Tower. About 150 people - young and old - took part in building the 8-foot menorah with the finished creation transported for Straub Park for the Chabad of St. Petersburg’s celebration, below. For story on the menorah-building event, see Page 8. 
Photo by BOB COLMER Rachel Rankin and Simon Boses, Lego menorah building coordinator, help some children assemble a section of the hanukkiah Sunday, Dec. 14 at Philip Benjamin Tower. About 150 people - young and old - took part in building the 8-foot menorah with the finished creation transported for Straub Park for the Chabad of St. Petersburg’s celebration, below. For story on the menorah-building event, see Page 8. Photo by BOB COLMER “He [Obama] threw a beautiful party, what can I tell you? No one left hungry,” Rabbi Hodakov said.

The rabbi said by the time he got to the party, the prime space near the president’s podium was taken, but he did manage to nudge his way through the crowd to shake the president’s hand and wish him a Happy Hanukkah. There was no time or space for getting an upclose selfie with the president, he said, but he did use his cell phone to get some photos of the president from a distance.


At the downtown St. Petersburg Chabad event, the crowd lit candles one-by- one before Yosef Korf passed the flame to Mayor Rick Kriseman who had the honor of lighting the Lego menorah on the first night of Hanukkah. Below, a life size dreidel delighted children and adults, too. 
Photos by Rachel Dawkins At the downtown St. Petersburg Chabad event, the crowd lit candles one-by- one before Yosef Korf passed the flame to Mayor Rick Kriseman who had the honor of lighting the Lego menorah on the first night of Hanukkah. Below, a life size dreidel delighted children and adults, too. Photos by Rachel Dawkins The rabbi said he did not see anyone else there from the Tampa Bay area that he recognized, but could not say for certain that no others from this area attended. He speculated that his name was probably picked at random to represent the area and he was delighted to do so.

“It was an opportunity of a lifetime – the most memorable Hanukkah I have had in 40 years,” he said.




At Temple Beth-El’s 101 Menorah program and dinner, families at each table brought their own hannukiah to light. Above, (L-R) Gabe Bedgood, Ari Pichardo, Adria Bernstein and Eddie Woodson; below, Bud and Nan Bugatch At Temple Beth-El’s 101 Menorah program and dinner, families at each table brought their own hannukiah to light. Above, (L-R) Gabe Bedgood, Ari Pichardo, Adria Bernstein and Eddie Woodson; below, Bud and Nan Bugatch

Todd M. Hoffman was honored with lighting the menorah made out of ice cream and cones on Clearwater Beach, hosted by the Chabad of Clearwater. 
Photos by BOB COLMER Todd M. Hoffman was honored with lighting the menorah made out of ice cream and cones on Clearwater Beach, hosted by the Chabad of Clearwater. Photos by BOB COLMER

At right, some of the 200 participants enjoy the cold treats at the first night celebration. At right, some of the 200 participants enjoy the cold treats at the first night celebration.

One-year-old Ariana Wood, is loving her latke during festivities at Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg. One-year-old Ariana Wood, is loving her latke during festivities at Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg.

Photos by Mike Krassner Photos by Mike Krassner

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