White House hosts ‘especially special’ Chanukah celebration

“I know for a fact there are a lot of happy people in this room,” Trump said at the annual White House Chanukah reception, referring to his bombshell recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Around 300 people gathered in the East Room of the White House Thursday evening to take part in the annual Chanukah reception that has been a custom in the White House since 2001. President Donald Trump’s young grandchildren, who are Jewish, led the symbolic lighting of the Chanukah menorah.

The smiling president, who was greeted with loud applause when he walked in and just mentioned the word “Jerusalem,” gave a short overview of the Chanukah story and the miracle of the vial of oil that lasted eight days instead of just one.

“The miracle of Chanukah is the miracle of Israel,” he stated. “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.”

“This is why the Jewish people shine as a light to all nations,” he continued. “And right now I’m thinking about what’s going on and the love that’s all over Israel and all about Jerusalem.… We are proud to stand by the people of Israel and renew our ongoing alliance. ”

Wishing everyone a Happy Chanukah, he concluded, “I think this one will go down as especially special.”

According to a White House report, some of the noted guests were Vice President Mike Pence and his wife and Jewish cabinet members, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Veteran Affairs David Schulman and Trump’s special Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt.

Jewish Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer also attended, as did Holocaust survivor Louise Lawrence-Israels and Orthodox Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, who led the audience in the Chanukah prayer and thanked the president for “recognizing what we’ve all always known to be true.”

This was a much more modest celebration than in recent years, when well over a thousand people came to two parties instead of one. Some of those excluded from the guest list this year were Reform Jewish leaders who have criticized Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem, as well as the Democratic members of Congress, according to congressional aides tracking the invitees. The Reform leaders and other liberal groups were also excluded from the president’s annual conference call in September, ahead of the Jewish New Year, having said that they would not accept the invitation.

Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for First Lady Melania Trump, whose office oversees White House party planning, told the New York Times, “I am not aware of the political affiliation of any of the guests, but I do know that this year was meant to be more personal than political.”