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Trump to host White House Hanukkah party

US president will continue annual tradition started under former president George W. Bush in 2001

US President Donald Trump watching the lighting of memorial candles during the annual Holocaust Day of Remembrance ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda, April 25, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images via JTA)
US President Donald Trump watching the lighting of memorial candles during the annual Holocaust Day of Remembrance ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda, April 25, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images via JTA)

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump will host a White House Hanukkah party on December 7, an administration official confirmed to The Times of Israel on Sunday.

Maggie Haberman of The New York Times broke the news on Twitter that invitations had been extended for the affair.

This year’s event will mark the continuation of an annual White House tradition started in 2001 under then president George W. Bush.

His successor, Barack Obama, maintained the ritual and often hosted two receptions, as invitations were in such high demand and Obama enjoyed wide support from the American Jewish community, despite an often tumultuous relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

President Barack Obama holding up Kylie Schmitter, 4, to light a menorah as Kylie’s sister, Lainey, looks on during a Hanukkah reception at the White House, December 5, 2013. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Invitees usually include the heads of American Jewish organizations, Jewish members of the Cabinet and Congress, and other prominent American Jews.

Past presidents dating back to Jimmy Carter have also participated in a Hanukkah Menorah-lighting Ceremony.

Since his campaign and unlikely ascension to the presidency, Trump has had a controversial — some have said paradoxical — relationship with US Jews.

He earned the scorn of many Jewish leaders for releasing a Holocaust Remembrance Day statement that omitted any mention of Jews or anti-Semitism; for not immediately and unequivocally condemning the trend of bomb threats against Jewish community centers last winter; and for his response to white-supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, this summer, in which he blamed “both sides” and said “very fine people” were marching with the neo-Nazis and Klansmen.

Overall, a cacophony of voices have wondered aloud why he has not done enough to spurn the endorsement of his “alt-right” backers who espouse unambiguously hateful, racist and anti-Semitic beliefs.

Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and their three children light menorahs during their family vacation in Hawaii, in this picture posted by Trump on December 26 2016. (Ivanka Trump/Twitter)

And yet, in a first for a US president, he also has immediate family members who are Jewish.

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, converted to Judaism after marrying Jared Kushner, an Orthodox Jew. They both remain observant and are raising their children Jewish.

It is not yet clear what role Trump will have in this year’s White House Hannukah party, but in the past it has been customary for president’s to take part in lighting a Menorah and then to give remarks.

Hanukkah begins on the evening of December 12 and will last until December 20.

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