It’s the holiday season in Washington, which means politicians, dignitaries and hangers-on try to elbow themselves into as many exclusive parties as possible.
And 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the hottest ticket of them all.
But Jewish Democratic lawmakers won’t be greeting President Donald Trump with a Chag Sameach at the annual White House Hanukkah Party on Thursday evening.
They insist their feelings aren’t hurt, but an invite would have been nice.
Trump did not invite Jewish members of Congress who are Democrats to the annual White House Hanukkah party, according to six congressional offices.
“I think its an unforced error on the president’s part and a missed opportunity,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston. “Why would you make partisan decisions about invitations that are entirely not partisan? Hanukkah is something that’s important to all Jews; the tradition is to invite the Jewish members of Congress. My feelings certainly aren’t hurt by not being invited but the few opportunities that we do have to come together certainly should include a celebration like Hanukkah.”
While Democrats didn’t get an invite, the two Jewish Republicans in Congress did.
The offices of New York Rep. Lee Zeldin and Tennessee Rep. David Kustoff confirmed they received invitations and will attend.
Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Jewish Republican, was invited to White House Hanukkah parties held by President Barack Obama, according to past press accounts. Cantor and Zeldin were the only Jewish House Republicans who served in Congress during Obama’s administration.
The President’s staff referred questions on the guest list to the First Lady’s office.
“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 spokesman for First Lady Melania Trump.
About 600 invitations were distributed, according to the White House. Grisham said that while the West Wing may release guest lists for meetings and working lunches or dinners, it’s the policy of the social office not to release the guest list for social or holiday events.
Wasserman Schultz, who entered Congress in 2005, said she was always invited to White House Hanukkah parties hosted by President George W. Bush and Obama.
“President Bush invited Democrats,” Wasserman Schultz said. “At least as far as I know, I don’t recall any of the two presidents I’ve served under being selective in a partisan way about this particular party.”
But Tevi Troy, a senior White House aide and deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services during the George W. Bush administration who helped organize Hanukkah parties in the mid-2000s, said he’s “quite confident” that all Jewish members of Congress were not always invited to the official White House Hanukkah party.
“I’m pretty sure we had a no-members-of-Congress rule and I thought that Eric Cantor was the exception to that rule,” Troy said, adding that the decision-making process for invitations was nonpartisan. Troy said that members of Congress were invited to a different holiday party during the Bush years.
Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, said the White House recently sent out “Merry Christmas” cards but did not send out “Happy Hanukkah” cards to members of Congress. Trump is vocally in favor of using the greeting “Merry Christmas” over “Happy Holidays.”
“Let me just say this, not to be a hypocrite, I wouldn’t be going to any party at the White House with him,” Frankel said. “If you think about it, all members should probably be invited. We were all invited to the Christmas party, we should all probably be invited to the Hanukkah party.”
There are 30 members of Congress who are Jewish, including Wasserman Schultz, Frankel and Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, and 28 of them are Democrats, or independents who caucus with Democrats. Some of the most prominent critics of Trump, including Wasserman Schultz, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and California Rep. Adam Schiff, are Jewish.
The lack of an invite comes a day after Trump moved to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy there. Wasserman Schultz and Deutch agreed with Trump’s decision, which critics like Pope Francis and the European Union say could needlessly harm the peace process between Israel and Palestinians.
Zeldin and Wasserman Schultz plan to host a bipartisan Hanukkah gathering on Capitol Hill next week, and those plans were made before Trump’s guest list was finalized.
“When you have a celebration at the White House, the people’s house, to mark the festival of lights and have an event that is designed to be unifying and bringing a community together and celebrating with that community, why would you tinge that celebration with partisanship?” Wasserman Schultz said.
McClatchy DC White House correspondent Anita Kumar and McClatchy DC staff writer Emily Cadei contributed to this report.