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Obama, who was joined by first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaObama on social media: You’ve got to ‘think before you tweet’ MSNBC trolls Trump with video montage of Obama saying ‘Merry Christmas’ Overnight Regulation: USDA delays healthy school lunch requirements | Senate panel advances controversial environmental pick | Drone industry pushes to ease rules | Dem commish joins energy regulator MORE, added that on the sixth night of the Jewish holiday, "we pray its light will bring victims of Sandy and all Americans to a brighter tomorrow."

The menorah was lit by Rabbi Larry Bazer, an Afghanistan war veteran. Obama noted that Bazer had been deployed in Kabul, Afghanistan, as a military chaplain over the last Hanukkah, joking he had turned down an invitation to the White House ceremony.

"We don't get that very often," Obama said. "Usually when we invite people they come."

Entertainment for the event was provided by the West Point Jewish Chapel Cadet Choir and the U.S. Marine Chamber Orchestra.