5 powerful moments from the Obamas' final White House Hanukkah celebration.

For the eighth and final time, President Obama and the first lady welcomed guests to the White House for a Hanukkah reception.

Hanukkah commemorates the Jewish rebellion, led by Judah Maccabee and his brothers against their Greek-Syrian oppressors. After their victory, Judah Maccabee hoped to light an eternal flame to rededicate the Second Temple in Jerusalem, but could only find one vessel of oil. Led by faith, the Jewish people lit the oil, and according to sacred texts, it burned for eight days.

Today, Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah by lighting a candle on a menorah each night. The Obamas and the White House marked the occasion — this time with two Hanukkah receptions in the East Room.


Mika Almog lights a menorah and Rabbi Rachel Isaacs says a blessing during a Hanukkah reception at the White House. Photo by Zach Gibson/AFP/Getty Images.

The Obamas welcomed honored guests to join together to light the White House menorahs.

The events were held Dec. 14, 10 days before the start of Hanukkah, which begins at sundown on Dec. 24 this year.

At the afternoon event, the Obamas were joined by the family of Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, critically acclaimed author, Nobel laureate, and educator who passed away in July. President Obama lit a menorah made by Wiesel’s granddaughter Shira when she was in kindergarten. In the evening, the family of the late Shimon Peres was on hand to light a treasured family menorah.

Photo by Aude Guerrucci/Getty Images.

The events also featured Rabbi Steven Exler of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale; Rabbi Rachel Isaacs of Colby College; Koleinu, Princeton University’s Jewish a cappella group; a Hanukkah themed "Hamilton" parody from Six13; prayers, wishes for peace, and plenty of fun decorations.

A snowman with a yarmulke is seen at the White House. Photo by Aude Guerrucci/Getty Images.

But it was President Obama’s words that offered a powerful message of hope to people of all faith traditions.

In his remarks, Obama outlined the many positive contributions Jewish people have made in the fight for equality and freedom. From Selma and Stonewall to opening their hearts and homes to refugees, Jewish people have acted with courage, conviction, and strength in the face of adversity. While their story is not unique, there's so much we can learn from the their resilience and optimism.

Here are five of my favorites from President Obama's remarks:

1. “Today in the White House ... we recall Hanukkah’s many lessons:  how a small group can make a big difference.”

Photo by Aude Guerrucci/Getty Images)

2. “Even when our resources seem limited, our faith can help us make the most of what little we have.”

Rabbi Steven Exler takes the stage with the president and first lady. Photo by Aude Guerrucci/Getty Images.

3. “This is the season that we appreciate the many miracles, large and small, that have graced our lives throughout generations and to recognize that the most meaningful among them is our freedom.”

Rabbi Rachel Isaacs joins the president and first lady on stage. Photo by Aude Guerrucci/Getty Images.

4. “We teach our children that even in our darkest moments, a stubborn flame of hope flickers and miracles are possible."

Photo by Zach Gibson/AFP/Getty Images.

5. “Through centuries of exile and persecution, and even the genocide families like the Wiesels endured, the Hanukkah candles have been kindled. Each wick an answer to the wicked. Each light a signal to the world that yours is an inextinguishable faith.”

The granddaughter and son of  Shimon Peres, one of Israel's founding fathers, light the menorah. Photo by Aude Guerrucci/Getty Images.

At holiday time and always, that's an important thing to remember: If we stand together, we can defeat even the toughest oppressors.

Just as the Maccabees rededicated the temple, we can take a moment this season to rededicate ourselves to being good neighbors and citizens, to leading with kindness and compassion. Because when we come together as a community and a country, there's nothing we can't accomplish.

Chemi Peres, son of Shimon Peres, and Mika Almog, granddaughter of Shimon Peres, during the Hanukkah reception. Photo by Zach Gibson/AFP/Getty Images.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."