On Thursday, December 6, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania hosted the annual White House Chanukah reception. In attendance were Vice President and Karen Pence; Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner; Justice Steven Breyer; Senator Roy Blunt; and Representatives Ted Deutch, Josh Gottheimer, David Kustoff and Lee Zeldin. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FDA Administrator Scott Gottlieb, Colorado Governor-elect Jared Polis, Israel’s Ambassador Ron Dermer and Miriam and Sheldon Adelson also attended.
Guests were invited to view the public White House holiday decorations and enjoy holiday music from the U.S. Military band, after which they were served a delicious glatt kosher buffet, prepared by the White House Chef, under the hashgacha of Chabad of Washington.
President Trump welcomed the attendees. “Today, I am thrilled to commemorate the miracle of Chanukah. More than 2,000 years ago, a band of Jewish patriots, led by Judah Maccabee, reclaimed their freedom from an oppressive dictator who had persecuted the Jewish people and ransacked the Holy Temple. After their victory, they prepared to rededicate the Temple. They found only enough oil to light the lamp for a single night. But, despite this, the lamp burned brightly for eight nights, an everlasting symbol of Jewish perseverance.”
The President added, “Throughout history, the Jewish people have suffered unthinkable repression and terrible violence. Yet, in the face of this hardship, the Jewish people have endured, overcome and thrived.”
In his remarks, the President noted that exactly one year earlier, he announced the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem.
Vice President Pence stated, “Karen and I are honored to be able to extend to you the warmest wishes to you and your family, and people all across this country wishes for a happy Chanukah. And it is the greatest honor of my life to serve as Vice President to the most pro-Israel President in American history.”
The President also honored eight Holocaust survivors: Sara Censor, Bertha Einhorn, Ethel Flam, Gita Landau, Dolly Rabinowitz, Ruth Salamon, Zahava Ungar and David Einhorn. “You honor us, truly, with your presence, and you inspire us with your courage. Thank you very much for being here. Each of you has endured evil beyond description. Your treasured attendance at this ceremony calls to mind the words of Elie Wiesel: ‘For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.’ Today and every day, we renew our solemn pledge: Never Again.”
Trump praised the survivors. “From the depths of despair, the Jewish people built a mighty and majestic nation, a thriving democracy in the heart of the Middle East, and a light of hope to all of the world. My administration will always stand with our cherished friend and partner, the state of Israel.”
Later, Andrew Pollack, father of Meadow Pollack, a high school student murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, spoke. “I think it’s fitting to celebrate Chanukah here in the Trump White House. I see a lot of parallels between what happened in ancient Israel and what is happening now. Ancient Judea’s ruling class had turned their back on what made our people great. They thought the Greeks were on the side of progress and they no longer believed that their nation was founded on revealed truth. The Jewish people would not have survived if the Maccabees had lost. They have a special place among the Jewish people because they never stopped fighting for God and our future.”
Pollack added, “Ever since I lost my daughter, I’ve been fighting for my daughter and for our students. And I won’t stop. We have to keep fighting, because the safety of our children and the future of our country depend on whether we honor the true spirit of Chanukah by staying true to our traditions and to keep on winning.”
Eitan Rubin, Y-Studs president, noted, “Each and every one of us feels very proud and blessed to have had this incredible opportunity. Regardless of one’s political affiliation or fondness for the administration, we all understood what an honor it was to represent American Jewry at this historic event.”
Uri Garber, Y-Stud member originally from New Rochelle, stated, “It was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity and it was an honor to be a part of it. I think we did a good job of making a Kiddush Hashem and bringing our contagious energy and uplifting spirits to one of the most remarkable venues in the world.”
By Judy Berger