Chanukah on the Ellipse, featuring the National Menorah lighting, is the Jewish corollary to the National Christmas Tree Lighting. And it’s got one element its conifer-centric counterpart doesn’t: an anthropomorphic mascot. The blue-and-white Dreidel Man has the beaming visage of an old-fashioned cartoon character and the raw physicality of a Racing President. Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of the American Friends of Lubavitch and leader of the festivities, put us in touch with Dreidel Man (whose identity is a mystery).
What’s the highlight of the National Menorah lighting for you?
I love it when the military band plays “I Have a Little Dreidel” and they call me out of my VIP tent to wave at the thousands of people there.
Really? You’re not sick of that song?
I’ll never get sick of my theme song.
How does a dreidel fit in to D.C., which is widely known as a city of spin?
You could say a dreidel is like a lobbyist and a PR person all in one: constantly spinning, winning a lot, losing sometimes. But as Ted Leonsis used to say, to be a champion, you have to remain a winner, even when you lose.
You have no flashing lights, no reindeer. How do you stand out?
I’m part of a tradition that doesn’t always stand out; we’d rather endorse. I know it’s a little philosophical for a dreidel, but Jewish tradition is more about enduring than standing out.