U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt helped light the National Menorah on the Ellipse across from the White House in Washington, D.C., on Thursday for the second year in a row.

The eight-day holiday of Hanukkah began at sundown and continues through Friday, Dec. 18.

Often, the lighting of the menorah is done by a Jewish member of the current administration, typically someone in the president’s Cabinet. Bernhardt, who is not Jewish, lit the shamash, the “helper candle.”

Beforehand, he gave brief remarks that included touting U.S. President Donald Trump as an advocate for religious freedom and the Jewish people. The secretary mentioned Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and brokering the Abraham Accords this year. They include the normalization of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and, on Thursday, with Morocco.

This year’s menorah-lighting, the 42nd, is annually organized by American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad). Typically, the event draws thousands, but this year included far fewer guests than usual due to coronavirus restrictions with social distancing in place.

In December 2017, then-economic adviser Gary Cohn, who is Jewish, lit the menorah; the following year, then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lit the shamash.


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