The president used nearly identical speeches and jokes for both addresses, telling the combined 500 guests that he and the first lady “like to invite just a few friends over for a small Chanukah celebration.”
Obama noted the presence of Gross’s sister-in-law at the first party. In a nod to his historic policy announcement that day that the United States and Cuba will establish formal diplomatic relations for the first time in a half century, Obama briefly took a Cuban cigar handed him by one of the guests.
“After our many months of discussion with the Cuban government,” Obama said, “Alan was finally released this morning on humanitarian grounds. I spoke to him on his flight.”
The annual Chanukah party was begun by former President George W. Bush, but was expanded last year by Obama into two separate receptions.