Once again, after ‘lobbying’ for years, I was NOT invited to the annual White House Hanukkah party. I am not a machar. (But I have “faith and resilience” for the future)
But at least this year, I am in okay company.
The White House, led by current President, Donald J. Trump, did not invite any of the Jewish Members of Congress who are Democrats. There are 30 Jewish elected members of Congress; two are members of the GOP. Bernie Sanders is not a member of either party). Only the Republicans were invited.
According to their Congressional offices, the two Jewish Republicans in Congress, David Kustoff (R-Tennessee/Memphis) and Lee Zeldin (R-New York/Suffolk County, Hamptons) attended the party.
The lack of invitations came as a surprise, since religious and cultural holiday celebrations at the White House have been non-partisan in the past.
Probably just an oversight.
The party was last night, half a week before the holiday. Former President Barack Obama also had some Hanukkah parties prior to the actual holiday. In 2011, Donald J. Trump criticized Obama for doing that, but .. well.. hypocrisy is best served with apple sauce. (“Why was the Hanukah celebration held in the White House two weeks early? @BarackObama wants to vacation in Hawaii in late December. Sad,” Trump tweeted in December 2011)
Member of Congress Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida/Miami-Dade, Broward) told the McClatchy News that, “Hanukkah is something that’s important to all Jews; the tradition is to invite the Jewish members of Congress. My feelings certainly aren’t hurt by not being invited, but the few opportunities that we do have to come together certainly should include a celebration like Hanukkah.”
Also uninvited were Jewish leaders who are members of the Reform movement, including Rabbi Rick Jacobs of the Union for Reform Judaism. He was busy in Boston at a biannual convention, but I am sure he would have flown to DC for the party had he been invited.
Representative Nita Lowey (D-New York/Westchester) wrote that, “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.”
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of New York City told Haaretz that she was not invited this year, and had she been, she would not have attended.. adding that her next visit to the White House would be one for a protest.
Mort Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), attended the party last evening and implied that inviting Democrats and Reform and Progressive Jewish leaders would have spoiled the party.
Thanks Mort, you suck (latkes). Mort told Haaretz that he was looking forward to attending so network with Jewish leaders who could promote his agenda.
As you will recall, Morton Klein called President Obama a “Jew-hating anti-Semite.” If anyone knows about spoiling a party (and an agenda)… he does. To be fair, I must admit that the Obama administration did not invite Mr. Klein to any Hanukkah parties after he called the President a Jew hater. Nor did they invite any white supremacists who circled a synagogue in Charlottesville.
Attendees included Vice President Mike Pence (and his wife or minder Karen), First Lady Melania Trump, President Trump’s daughter and son-in-law Ivanka and Jared Kushner (and their children), Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin and Secretary of Veterans Affair David Shulkin. SCOTUS Justice Stephen Breyer was in attendance, as was Rabbi Shmuley Boteach of New Jersey and Israel’s Ambassador to the United State Ron Dermer, as well as Gary Cohn (chief Economic Advisor to the White House), Congressman Ed Royce, Jason Greenblatt (U.S. Chief Mideast Negotiator), and Rabbi Marvin Hier (film producer and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center).
“I know for a fact there are a lot of happy people in this room,” Trump said as he entered the party. “This one will go down as especially special.” He was referring to #Jerusalem.
He also joked that he may have set a record at an earlier party by shaking hands for over three hours.
Guests heard from the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy Lower School Girls Choir of Rockville, Maryland.
Anyway… a better party was at “Sixth & I” synagogue, sponsored by Politico with Michael Barbaro of The New York Times “The Daily” (yes, he is a Member of the Tribe)
The Republican Jewish Coalition sponsored an afterparty called “Hanukkah Nightcap” at the nearby Trump International Hotel. It was sponsored by Sheldon Adelson, and America First Action, a Trump-policy promoting PAC. Many attendees purchased or got the following prized Hanukkah Gift: Let Trump Be Trump by former campaign manager and accused pugilist Corey Lewandowski (No relation to Cantor Louis Lewandowski. Corey is Polish Catholic)
Note: Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for First Lady Melania Trump, told The New York Times that there was a short guest list (300 instead of 1700) because the 2017 party was designed to be “more personal than political.” Ms. Grisham said that was not aware of the political affiliation of any of the invited guests.
One of the menorahs used was over three centuries old and from NYC’s Spanish and Portuguese synagogue Shearith Israel (brought by Rabbi Soloveitchik). Another was a menorah that survived the Tarnow Ghetto in Poland.
Rabbi Soloveitchik sported a lovely dark, double breasted suit with red necktie and matching pocket square as he kindled the candles. Ivanka wore an Alexander McQueen black and gold sweater and matching pleated skirt. Melania Trump wore a sleeveless black dress. I went to Men’s Wearhouse and returned the suit I wold have worn had I been invited.