WASHINGTON – The White House announced early Saturday morning that it had not reduced the number of invitees to its annual Hanukkah gala, despite reports that the number of invitations issued was far less than during the previous administration.
The statement said that former President George W. Bush had invited 585 guests, not 800 as had been published by many members of the Jewish and Israeli press, and that President Barack Obama had invited 550 people.
On Sunday Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, will light the White House menorah, and on Wednesday Obama will host the annual celebration, during which the two children of a soldier serving in Iraq will light a 19th century menorah brought from Prague.
The New York Times reported Friday that reports on the minimization of the event had been blown out of proportion.
“This is all one big overblown latke,” Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who heads the Washington Chabad office, told the Times. “I feel that we need to save our communal kvetching in reserve for when it’s more called for and really matters.”
Earlier Friday Obama issued a Hanukkah greeting to the Jewish people. "Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all who are celebrating Hanukkah around the world," the new Nobel Peace Prize laureate wrote.
"The Hanukkah story of the Maccabees and the miracles they witnessed reminds us that faith and perseverance are powerful forces that can sustain us in difficult times and help us overcome even the greatest odds."