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The Girl Whose Hair Caught Fire At Bill Clinton’s Hanukkah Event

The Girl Whose Hair Caught Fire At Bill Clinton’s Hanukkah Event 1
In 1993, President Bill Clinton grabbed Ilana Kattan’s hair to stop it from burning after noticing that it had caught fire on the menorah her class had just helped him light at the White House. (Clinton Presidential Library on YouTube)

WASHINGTON (JTA) – The incident in 1993 lasted only about 20 seconds, but Ilana Kattan says the time President Bill Clinton stopped her hair from burning during a White House menorah lighting remains her “mic drop” anecdote when she introduces herself.

Kattan, then 7, was at the White House with her class from her Washington, D.C., Jewish school to teach Clinton, celebrating Hanukkah for the first time as president, how to light a menorah and play dreidel.

In a video of the event posted online by Clinton’s presidential library, you can see Kattan turn away from the just-lit menorah and, moments later, Clinton grab her hair as the adults in the room gasp. Clinton grasps her close to him and asks if she is OK.

Within moments, someone has suggested that it’s now time to teach Clinton to play dreidel — and a child has asked the president, as children do, why he’s wearing a Band-Aid. The rest of the event unfolds without incident. (Unless you count Clinton rolling a gimmel and taking the whole pot of gelt from the children.)

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