(JNS.org) About 200 guests attended Wednesday evening’s much-debated Hanukkah party at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., an event hosted by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Embassy of Azerbaijan.
Despite the fact that 12 groups from the Conference of Presidents umbrella’s more than 50 members chose to boycott the gathering over the Donald Trump-owned venue and Azerbaijan's human rights record, the event was attended by high-profile diplomats and leaders, including: Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer; members of Congress; Azerbaijani Ambassador to the U.S. Elin Suleymanov; and ambassadors and diplomats from Belarus, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, the Palestine Liberation Organization, Romania, Russia, Tajikstan and Turkey.
The Hanukkah party followed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visits to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, which aimed to bolster Israel’s relations with those two Muslim-majority Central Asian nations.
“Last night, in a spirit of celebration, mutual respect and gratitude, we brought together a full house of guests—nearly 200 guests—from many different faiths, cultures and countries who joined together with us to reaffirm our common humanity,” said Stephen M. Greenberg, chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman and CEO, of the Conference of Presidents.
Amb. Suleymanov told the crowd that Azerbaijani society has historically respected religious diversity, adding that the country’s centuries-old Jewish community is and has always been an integral part of Azerbaijan.
The event honored countries that provided crucial firefighting personnel and equipment to help Israel battle the devastating fires that raged across the country last month. Before presenting the foreign diplomats with traditional hanukkiahs (Hanukkah menorahs), Hoenlein expressed the Conference of Presidents’s gratitude for how their nations assisted Israel during the wave of fires.
“We were moved by Ambassador Suleymanov’s suggestion to hold this event,” Hoenlein said. “It represents an essential part of who the Jewish people are to publicly mark the Hanukkah holiday, to express our respect for other religions by joining with Muslims, both Sunni and Shi’a, Christians and every other faith tradition, and to promote understanding by focusing on what we have in common rather than what separates and divides us.”