Oakland rabbi invited to White House Chanukah party

Judah Dardik wasn’t a typical 8-year old. Instead of playing with G.I. Joes, he would read up on the 1922 Teapot Dome scandal.

Now, the lifelong American history buff and rabbi at Oakland’s Beth Jacob Congregation gets to be part of history himself when he attends this year’s White House Chanukah party and candlelighting. The event takes place on the seventh night of Chanukah on Monday, Dec. 10.

Dardik is one of four Orthodox rabbis from around the country selected by the Orthodox Union to attend. He says he was shocked when the official invite arrived.

“I got a heads-up email saying I might receive something special from the White House, and it’s not junk mail,” notes the rabbi. “It’s a tremendous honor.”

Dardik will be one of 600 invitees to the event, instituted by the Bush administration and now the hottest Jewish ticket of the year in Washington, D.C. In years past, Jewish celebrities ranging from professor Alan Dershowitz to ballplayers Shawn Green and Brad Ausmus have chowed down on official executive branch latkes (strictly kosher because the White House kitchens will be supervised by Chabad).

Though the invite came to “Rabbi and Mrs. Dardik,” Dardik says his plus-one will be his 8-year-old son, Aharon Akiva, who inherited his father’s passion for U.S. history.

“We’ve been talking about a father-son trip, and last week I said, ‘Would you like to go to Washington and meet the president?'”

For Dardik it will be memorable for many reasons.

“On a personal level, it’s a tremendous honor to be invited to the White House,” he said. “I was reflecting how magnificent it is to live in a country where the leader, who is not Jewish, honors a Jewish celebration. On a communal level, I’m proud for the Jewish community of Oakland and the Orthodox community. I don’t know how many people took the time to know we’re in Oakland. We’re on the Jewish map.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.