F or the most part, the annual White House Chanukah reception sticks to tradition. The lineup is usually the same: Latkes and kosher wine are served to the guests, the president speaks, and Chanukah candles are lit.

But President Trump’s first Chanukah party, held last week at the White House, turned into something more. It was first and foremost a celebration of the president’s historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The president, accompanied by his wife Melania, his daughter Ivanka, her husband Jared Kushner, and the grandchildren, seemed much more relaxed and happy than at any other official event on his schedule. The Trump I saw was elated, a feeling intensified by the warm reception from the audience.

“I know for a fact there are a lot of happy people in this room,” said Trump, then added: “Jerusalem!”

This is the third year that I’ve covered this event, and I surely wasn’t the only reporter who noted several marked contrasts to Obama’s Chanukah parties.

The event held all the ingredients that made this evening meaningful for Trump: political, personal, and family. Politically, he was surrounded by his supporters, many of them Orthodox, which reflected not only the resonance of his Jerusalem declaration, but also his connection to the community, which has been a strong source of support. That trend was reflected in the invitee list: dominated by Orthodox guests, with no significant representation of Reform or Conservative organizations or prominent political figures on the Democratic side.

Personally, the president places great stock in showing that, unlike his predecessors, he is upholding his election promises. Every time Trump fulfills a campaign pledge — such as the withdrawal from the Paris agreement, which everyone doubted he could pull off — he celebrates loudly and publicly. In this case, the evening after declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, he uploaded a video clip in which all his predecessors can be seen promising to recognize Jerusalem, and added: “I fulfilled my campaign promise — others did not!”

From a family perspective, it was a moving event for Trump to light Chanukah candles together with his daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren, for the first time as president of the United States.

Since the party took place before the first night of Chanukah, the brachos were not said, but Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik said shehecheyanu, which the audience repeated loudly and enthusiastically, emphasizing each word and applauding. The context was clear. The time had come: the United States had finally recognized Jerusalem.

As for the million-dollar question — are the White House latkes better than ordinary latkes? — the unfortunate answer is that the media corps are traditionally invited only to the speeches and not to the meal, so I didn’t get to taste them. Sad. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 689)