President Trump lapped up the festivities at the White House Hanukkah celebration just one day after he bucked years of American foreign policy to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Trump entered The East Room to cheers and addressed the crowd saying he knew there were a lot of happy people in the room before declaring, “Jerusalem,” according to pool reports.
Trump, who shared the origins of Hanukkah, and allowed his grandchildren to light the two Menorahs in the room, credited the Jewish people for their faith and resilience.
“No force has ever crushed your spirit, and no evil has ever extinguished your faith — and that is why the Jewish people shine as a light to all Nations,” Trump said, before highlighting Jerusalem again.
While attendees celebrated the major policy shift and enjoyed kosher snacks and wine five days before Hanukkah, Democratic legislators and Jewish figures who were previously critical of Trump were left out in the cold.
“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,” Representative Nita M. Lowey of New York said in a statement to the NYTimes.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union of Reform Judaism, was not invited after he criticized the president for his response to the far-right rally in Charlottesville, Va.
He also slammed Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which has set off clashes in the West Bank along with protests across the Middle East.
While Trump is known for holding a grudge, a spokesperson for Melania Trump, whose office oversees social events, said the celebration this year was “meant to be more personal than political.”
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