Washington, DC (December 6, 2010) – Gallaudet President Alan Hurwitz and Mrs. Hurwitz were invited to the White House to participate in the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah on December 2. The ceremony took place in the East Room of the president’s residence and both President and Mrs. Obama were on hand to greet their guests and join in the celebration. Also in attendance were Vice President Joe Biden, the three Jewish members of the Supreme Court, Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell and Ambassador of Israel to the United States Michael Oren. “When it was our turn to meet Barack and Michelle Obama, I introduced myself as the president of Gallaudet University,” said Hurwitz, “President Obama paused just for a beat, and then said, ‘You are doing very good work!'”

To Mrs. Obama, Hurwitz said he was aware of her past work as a note taker for deaf students at Whitney High school in Chicago to which, Hurwitz said, “She smiled and said, ‘Yes, I did that, and still remember a little sign language,’ and proceeded to sign: My name is – and fingerspell M-I-C-H-E-L-L-E.” Each of the traditional elements of Hanukkah had special meaning at this event. The menorah came from Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans where it had sat under eight feet of flood water following Hurricane Katrina in 20005. In addition, the traditional blessings were made by Susan Retik, recipient of the 2010 Presidential Citizens Medal. After Retik’s husband was killed on September 11, 2001, she turned her personal loss into a humanitarian mission by co-founding Beyond the 11th, a group that reaches out to Afghan widows.

“I was honored to be among so many great leaders and extraordinary individuals from the Jewish community and beyond,” Hurwitz said. “And I was brimming with pride at this chance to represent Gallaudet.”

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