By Bentzi Avtzon
This Chanuka has been a special one for me.
As some of you may have seen, I’ve been working recently on a short documentary project about my grandfather, Rabbi Abraham Shemtov.
He’s a man with so many stories worth telling, but these past two weeks I made it my mission to film and tell one of them: the story of the National Menorah, the menorah inaugurated by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 and lit in front of the White House ever since.
After decades of hard work by my uncle, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, this menorah lighting has grown into a truly national event, with thousands in attendance and tens of millions watching on TV.
But I felt that this Menorah’s origin story was one worth telling, as what it boils down to is two individuals, my grandfather and a man named Stu Eizenstat, then the domestic policy advisor to President Carter, and their conviction that the menorah had a message for the entire nation and world at large.
On that cold night in 1979, only sixty people stood there to witness the President light the Menorah. Forty years later, and thousands of public menorahs lit worldwide since there’s no question that they were witnessing history.
On this eighth and final day of Chanuka, I present to you a work of love: The Idea of Light.