In a short speech, the president noted the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela a few hours earlier, calling him a "moral giant." Obama also talked about U.S. policy with Iran.
"Together with our Israeli friends, we're determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Obama said. "And we're testing whether it's possible through diplomacy to achieve that goal, understanding that we have to remain vigilant."
Obama acknowledged the presence of three Supreme Court justices, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer. Larry David, the executive producer of "Seinfeld" and creator and star of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," was also on the guest list.
Two Holocaust survivors who were born in Czechoslovakia and now live in Bethesda, Md., lit the candles in the menorah. Margit Meissner, 91, was living with her mother in France when the country fell, and they managed to escape to the United States. Martin Weiss, 84, survived Auschwitz and other camps.