US President Donald Trump strode onto the stage at the annual White House Chanukah Reception with a particular air of confidence on Thursday night.
“Well, I know for a fact there are a lot of happy people in this room,” he told the gathered crowd of 300 guests.
He then paused for effect — and applause — before saying what was everyone’s mind: “Jerusalem.”
This year’s party came one day after Trump announced that the US will formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and has directed the State Department to begin planning the move of the US embassy there from Tel Aviv.
The Menorah was lit by President Trump’s grandchildren Arabella and Joseph Kushner, whom Trump proudly noted, are Jewish and observe the holiday each year at home. President Trump’s daughter Ivanka Kushner and son-in-law Jared Kushner were seen reciting the “Shehecheyanu” blessing.
Also onstage with Trump was his wife Melania, Vice President Mike Pence, and his wife Karen Pence.
While the response to Trump’s decision on Jerusalem has elicited a mixed reaction from the American Jewish community — including outrage from its liberal quarters — those in attendance Thursday evening were overjoyed, the Times of Israel reported.
Speakers included Holocaust survivor Louise Lawrence-Israels and Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York who thanked Trump for “recognizing what we’ve all always known to be true.”
Mr. Trump, who prizes loyalty and seldom forgets a slight, left Democratic members of Congress off his Chanukah list this year, according to congressional aides tracking the invites, the New York Times reported. He also did not invite Reform Jewish leaders who have been critical of him or progressive Jewish activists who have differed with him publicly on policy issues.
As in previous years, the evening served a glatt kosher meal under the strict rabbinical supervision of Rabbi Levi Shemtov of the Lubavitch Center of Washington DC (Chabad) in cooperation with the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington.