President Donald Trump celebrated his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital at the White House Hanukkah Reception.
This year’s event came one day after Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and directed the State Department to prepare for moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a campaign that both he and several former had made but which has remained unimplemented.
“Well, I know for a fact there are a lot of happy people in this room,” he told the dozens of people in attendance Thursday night. He clarified with one word what he meant: “Jerusalem.”
Yet the president devoted most of his speech to conventional Hanukkah greetings, mentioning the “miracle of the Maccabees” and how “they found only enough oil to light the lamp for a single night. ”
That the lamp burned for eight days – the miracle celebrated by Jews around the world on Chanukah, shows “God’s presence in his dwelling place and a symbol of the faith and resilience of the Jewish people. You do have faith and you do have resilience,” Trump said.
Trump was standing by his wife Melania. Beside them was also his daughter Ivanka, his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, and his grandchildren, whom he noted, are Jewish.
“I am also proud that my beautiful grandchildren — Arabella, Joseph, and Theodore — have joined us tonight right here as we celebrate with all of you the sacred traditions that they observe each year at home.”
Vice President Mike Pence, his wife Karen and Rabbi Meir Soloveichik were also in the room.
A Holocaust survivor, Louise Lawrence-Israels, spoke at the event about hiding as a young girl in an Amsterdam attic.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Veteran Affairs David Schulman and Trump’s special Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, who are all Jewish, also attended.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who is Jewish, was also at the reception, donning a kippah. Breyer was appointed to the high court by former president Bill Clinton. But there were no notable Democrats at the event, the Times of Israel noted.
“The miracle of Hanukkah is the miracle of Israel,” he said. “The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have endured unthinkable persecution and oppression. But no force has ever crushed your spirit, and no evil has ever extinguished your faith,” Trump also said.
In a break from tradition, Democratic members of Congress off were notably left of the invite list this year, according to congressional aides tracking the invites and reported by The NY Times.
“He did not invite people who have been hostile to him,” Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, told the Times. (He attended the event and an after party at the Trump International Hotel.
“It’s deeply unfortunate that the White House Chanukah 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,” Representative Nita M. Lowey of New York said in a statement to the Times.