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Obama defends freedom of religion at White House Hanukkah events

By Andrew V. Pestano and Doug G. Ware
Late Israeli president Shimon Peres' son, Chemi (L), and granddaughter, Mika Almog (R), light the menorah while President Barack Obama (unseen) and first lady Michelle Obama (C) watch during the second Hanukkah reception of the day in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Pool photo by Aude Guerrucci/UPI
1 of 2 | Late Israeli president Shimon Peres' son, Chemi (L), and granddaughter, Mika Almog (R), light the menorah while President Barack Obama (unseen) and first lady Michelle Obama (C) watch during the second Hanukkah reception of the day in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Pool photo by Aude Guerrucci/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama on Wednesday oversaw his final Hanukkah receptions at the White House, where a menorah owned by the family of late Israeli President Shimon Peres was lit.

Peres' son, Chemi, and granddaughter, Mika Almog, attended the ceremony Wednesday afternoon. Another celebration was held at 7:35 p.m. EST.

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"Everybody in America can understand the spirit of this tradition -- proudly practicing our religion, whatever it might be -- and defending the rights of others who do the same," Obama said at the afternoon event.

"The world lost my friend [Peres] this year, it lost a keeper of our collective conscience, but we could not be more honored today to be joined by his beloved family."

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