President Donald Trump on Dec. 7 held his first White House Hanukkah celebration, where he touted his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Trump reportedly did not invite Jewish Democrats and liberal Jewish organizations who have been highly critical of the president to the reception.
“The miracle of Hanukkah is the miracle of Israel. The descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have endured unthinkable persecution and oppression, but no force has ever crushed your spirit and now evil has ever extinguished your faith,” Trump said in the White House’s East Room, adding that the Jewish people “shine as a light to all nations.”
Regarding the Jerusalem recognition, Trump said, “I know for a fact there are a lot of happy people in this room … this one will go down as especially special.”
In addition to Trump’s family — including his Jewish daughter Ivanka and her husband, senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner — the Hanukkah reception was attended by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, and Reps. David Kustoff (Tenn.) and Lee Zeldin (N.Y.), the only two Jewish Republicans in Congress.
Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, a leading Orthodox rabbi, said at the event, “For the first time since the founding of the state of Israel, an American president has courageously declared what we have always proclaimed, which is that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.”
Congressional Jewish Democrats were notably absent from the Hanukkah affair.
“It’s deeply unfortunate that the White House Hanukkah party — a bipartisan event bringing together Jewish and non-Jewish leaders alike to celebrate the Festival of Lights since 2001 — has turned into a partisan affair under this administration,” Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) told The New York Times.
Trump also did not invite leaders of the Reform movement and the left-wing Jewish lobby group J Street, who have both been critical of Trump and opposed his policy change on Jerusalem.
Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, attended the Hanukkah event and told The New York Times that Trump “did not invite people who have been hostile to him.” Klein was not invited to President Barack Obama’s first White House Hanukkah celebration in 2009 after condemning the former president.