Congressional Democrats Left Out of White House Hanukkah Party

Congressional Democrats Left Out of White House Hanukkah Party

Representatives Lee Zeldin of New York and David Kustoff of Tennessee, the two Jewish Republicans in Congress, were attending the party, their offices said. But Jewish Democrats left off the invite list — many of whom have been harsh critics of Mr. Trump — were not in a festive mood.

“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.

This year, officials slashed the size of the annual reception, inviting around 300 guests to one soiree instead of hosting 1,700 over two parties as in the past.

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Representative Nita M. Lowey, Democrat of New York, in June in Washington. Credit Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

Among those who did not make the cut were Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, who in August criticized Mr. Trump for his handling of the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Va. On Wednesday, Rabbi Jacobs said the president should not have made his declaration about Jerusalem, arguing that it could undermine the chances of achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

The White House chalked up the limited guest list to a new approach from the president.

“I am not aware of the political affiliation of any of the guests, but I do know that this year was meant to be more personal than political,” said Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Melania Trump, the first lady, whose office oversees White House party planning. She declined to elaborate.

But for some invitees, the message was clear.

“He did not invite people who have been hostile to him,” Mr. Klein said in an interview. He should know. After being invited to the 2009 White House Hanukkah party during President Barack Obama’s first year in office, Mr. Klein was later cut from the guest list after condemning the former president in scathing terms. (Last year, Mr. Klein referred to Mr. Obama as a “Jew-hating anti-Semite.”)

Officials from J Street, a progressive pro-Israel group that strongly backed Mr. Obama and the nuclear deal he forged with Iran — which was detested by many conservative Jews — were excluded.

Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Mr. Trump’s proclamation on Jerusalem was a “consensus issue in the Jewish community.” He said it would add to an ebullient mood at the Hanukkah party, which is to mark an eight-night festival beginning Tuesday night that celebrates the Jews liberating their temple from oppressors.

Ezra Friedlander, a public policy consultant, said Mr. Trump would be “cheered like a rock star” at the party in light of his speech on Jerusalem.

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