WASHINGTON (AP) _ At a menorah lighting ceremony Monday at the White House, President Bush prayed for Americans serving in the U.S. armed forces and expressed his hope that all people who live under oppression will one day be free.

``We hope and pray that all who live under tyranny, will see their day of freedom, and that the light of faith will always shine through the darkness,'' Bush said before candles were lighted on a 3-foot candelabra, which is more than two centuries old.

``We also pray for the brave men and women of our armed forces _ many of whom are spending the holiday season far from home and their loved ones,'' he added.

Hebrew blessings were given by Jacob Murphy, 6, of Jacksonville, N.C., and Sidney Hallem, 6, whose father, Lt. Col. Wayne Hallem, recently returned from Okinawa, Japan, and is based at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Murphy struggled to light the wicks but got a boost from his father, Capt. Neil Murphy, a member of the 1st Marines Expedition Force which returned from Iraq in June.

Hanukkah commemorates the Jews' successful rebellion against suppression of their religion under the Syrian-Greek empire in 165 B.C. Led by the Maccabee family, the Jews drove the Greeks from Jerusalem and reclaimed Jerusalem Temple for religious services.

The story says there was only enough oil to burn the temple menorah for one day but miraculously it burned for eight days. Accordingly, Jews light the menorah on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah.

Earlier Monday, Bush met in the Roosevelt Room with about 20 rabbis and Jewish community leaders.

``He talked a lot about the war on terrorism, the need to perpetuate an agenda of democracy and how America will not back down even though terrorists are trying to create a climate of fear,'' said Rabbi David Kessel, director of the Hillel campus organization at the University of Texas at Austin, who attended the meeting.

Bush reflected on what he called his ``strong'' relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Kessel said. The president refrained from discussing details of the roadmap, a blueprint for achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Before leaving for Camp David, Bush hosted more than 300 people at a Hanukkah reception, the last holiday party at the White House this season.

Also on Monday, Bush visited Shiloh Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., to recognize its ``Victim to Victory Angel Tree Ministry,'' which provides Christmas gifts to more than 500,000 children of inmates each year. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the event was aimed at highlighting Bush's initiative for recruiting and training mentors for more than 1 million disadvantaged youth, including 100,000 children with parents in prison.