The White House is hosting two Chanukah parties on Thursday. The annual celebration was delayed one day due to the funeral of the late President George H.W. Bush. on Wednesday.
The first party began at around 4:00PM. President and First Lady Trump, Vice President and Second Lady Pence were joined on stage by a group of 8 Holocaust survivors from Brooklyn, New York. They were accompanied by Assemblyman Dov Hikind, and thanked the president for deporting Nazi guard Jakiw Palij from the United States.
Trump noted the survivors had each endured “evil beyond description”.
The president also referenced the fatal October shooting of 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue. He says in the aftermath of that “sinister” killing, “we reaffirmed our solemn duty to confront anti-Semitism everywhere. Trump added that we “must stamp out this vile hatred from the world.”
Trump’s daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism to marry Jared Kushner. Through the couple, Trump has three Jewish grandchildren.
The president described Hanukkah as an “everlasting symbol of Jewish perseverance.”
He says his administration “will always stand” with Israel.
The audience erupted into cheers – chanting “4 more year” – when Trump mentioned his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv. Trump noted they should have said “6 more years”.
After the Menorah was lit, Hikind led the assembled crowd in the singing of ‘Al Hanisim’.
The Y-Studs acapella group performed before the ceremony.
The second Menorah lighting ceremony is scheduled for 8:00PM.
The parties come a year after the Trump White House’s first Chanukah party was marred by controversy after the White House did not invite Jewish members of Congress who were critical of the president.
The White House says it has invited all Jewish members of Congress to this year’s presidential party.
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.