Rabbi Laurence Bazer got the chance of a lifetime when he participated in the White House Menorah lighting to celebrate the sixth night of Chanukah on Thursday.
Bazer, 39, who has served Temple Beth Sholom in Framingham for 10 years and is the Joint Forces Chaplain for the Massachusetts National Guard, was asked to light candles at the Chanukah celebration less than two weeks ago. He flew down to Washington, D.C., this week with his daughter, Eliana, 13.
"It was amazing and beyond," Bazer said of the experience. "I felt this was a wonderful way to honor our service members, especially our Jewish service members."
Bazer's wife, Leslie, and son, Oren, 15, represented the chaplain at the White House Chanukah celebration last year. Bazer had been unable to attend because he was serving a six-month deployment to Afghanistan with the 26th Yankee Brigade of the Massachusetts National Guard.
"To think back a year ago that I was in Afghanistan, mainly in Kabul, celebrating Chanukah and that this year...," Bazer recalled, "It really was a very special honor."
Bazer said he felt he was representing numerous communities as he lit the White House menorah. As the first Jewish chaplain of the state's National Guard in 350 years, he said he was not only representing the Guard (and on its 376th birthday, no less), but his congregation and the Massachusetts community as well.
"As I was lighting it, that's what I was thinking about," he said.
The 90-year-old menorah used in the ceremony came from the Temple Israel synagogue in Long Beach, New York, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy, the White House wrote on its blog. The celebration served as a tribute to acts of resilience and optimism, tying in with the themes of the original Chanukah story, the blog says.
Bazer said the Chanukah message is as true today as ever.
"There's a lot of darkness in the world," Bazer said. "It's really important that all people work together to bring light and hope to the world."
Temple Beth Sholom's cantor, Scott Skovol, also represented the congregation this week when he lit the Massachusetts State House menorah on the third night of Chanukah Monday, Dec. 10.
Laura Franzini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.