This post has been updated to reflect Schmeltzer’s comments to Tablet.
On Wednesday night, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin joined President Barack Obama at the annual White House Hanukkah party. And everyone, naturally, was all about that presidential friendliness.
The true highlight of this year’s festivities, however, was not Rivlin but instead self-proclaimed “international Jewish entertainer” Lipa Schmeltzer, who led a robust “Maoz Tzur,” then headlined a Hanukkah rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” with the Maccabeats as a capella accompaniment.
When Schmeltzer finally got to meet the President, he made sure to point out that he is a Columbia student and better known as the “Jewish Lady Gaga” (at which the President briefly giggled). Before leaving, Schmeltzer promised a very special gift to the Obamas, a one-of-a-kind Lipa-style gold and silver yarmulke.
“I’ve been lookin’ for a gold and silver yarmulke,” the President said, but couldn’t quite offer the blessing Schmeltzer begged him for.
Schmeltzer said he was privileged to attend a closed door briefing with officials and with Jewish leaders. He said the experience “showed [him] that the president is a very down-to-earth person.” Schmeltzer also touched on his own outfit choice, saying he decided not to wear a crazy hat but thought, “I don’t have to go mellow, I’m a Jewish entertainer. If Miley Cyrus comes to the White House, she has to dress up,” he said. So he opted for some memorable glasses and a silver-and-gold yarmulke, perhaps as a preview of the President’s upcoming Hanukkah gift, which Schmeltzer said will be a replica of one made by a mystery “famous artist” 100 years ago.
Hannah Vaitsblit is an intern at Tablet.