White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn praised President Trump’s controversial decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel during the National Hanukkah Menorah lighting in Washington, D.C., Tuesday evening.
“While we gather tonight in Washington, we must remember another city that made the news last week,” Cohn said. “President Trump delivered on a promise to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
“The president made the right decision and it makes this years celebration of Hanukkah particularly meaningful,” Cohn said. “On behalf of the president, the first lady, and the administration, I wish you all a very Happy Hanukkah.”
Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch, reiterated the significance of the decision.
"That is a very major, historic point. And as we celebrate Hanukkah, I felt that we must acknowledge that," Shemtov said.
It is tradition for a member of the administration to make an appearance at the ceremony. Cohn, who is Jewish, was the Trump administration's first to attend the menorah lighting ceremony.
The status of Jerusalem is a sensitive issue, as both Israelis and Palestinians have claimed it as their capital. Bucking decades of U.S. policy, Trump announced last week that Jerusalem would be recognized by the U.S. as the capital of Israel. Trump also announced that he ordered the State Department to make preparations to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The U.S., along with many other nations, previously had not identified Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, noting the decision is incumbent upon the result of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
Trump also issued a statement Tuesday to recognize Hanukkah, noting that the U.S. stands with the people of Israel.
“On this holiday, we are proud to stand with the Jewish people who shine as a light to all nations,” Trump said in a statement. “We also stand with the people of Israel, the Jewish State, which has itself a miraculous history of overcoming the tallest of odds. We hope that those observing the holiday here, in Israel, and around the world have a wonderful holiday.”
Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner are both Jewish.
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the victory of Jewish warriors, known as the Maccabees, against a Greek-Syrian army in 165 B.C. The eight-day holiday, known as the Festival of Lights, includes a ceremonial lighting of the 9-branch candelabrum to remember when the Jewish people rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Although, the Jewish people only had oil left to light the temple’s menorah for one day, the oil lasted eight days.
Tuesday evening marked the start of Hanukkah and the American Friends of Lubavitch commemorated the day by lighting a 30-foot menorah in Washington, D.C. near the White House. Cohn assisted lighting the giant menorah.
This year is the 39th lighting of the National Hanukkah Menorah.