After Last Year's Partisan Event, White House Invites Jewish Democrats to Hanukkah Party

The White House came under criticism last year for holding the party without inviting any congressional Democrats

File Photo: U.S. President Donald Trump prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem May 22, 2017.
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON – The White House says it has invited all Jewish members of Congress to this year’s presidential Hanukkah party, which will take place on Thursday.

Last year, the Trump administration came under criticism for holding the traditional Hanukkah party without inviting any congressional Democrats, despite the fact that there are close to 30 Jewish Democratic members in Congress. This year’s event will be more bipartisan, assuming some Democrats who were invited choose to attend. 

A White House official told Haaretz on Monday that "all Jewish members of Congress were invited." The official added, however, that there isn’t yet a finalized guest list, because of schedule changes resulting from President George H.W. Bush’s funeral, which will take place on Wednesday.

The funeral caused the White House to delay the Hanukkah party by a day, as Jewish Insider first reported on Sunday. 

The White House Hanukkah party is a tradition that was started by the 43rd president, George W. Bush, and was continued by his successor, President Barack Obama. The Trump White House had its first opportunity to hold such a party in 2017, and it did so mostly in the company of the the president's political supporters. Last year's gathering took place just days after Trump announced his decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. 

In response to criticism from members of Congress over last year’s partisan make-up of the guest list, a White House official told the New York Times that the event last year “was meant to be more personal than political.” Congresswoman Nita Lowey, a veteran Democratic lawmaker from New York, said at the time that it was “unfortunate” that the administration turned the Hanukkah party tradition into a “partisan affair.” 

This year, the one day delay caused by President Bush’s funeral means that the event will take place on December 6 – the date marking exactly one year to Trump’s speech on recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The event will include two receptions: One at 3 P.M. local time and another at 7 P.M. Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, is also expected to attend.