The White House is scaling back this year's Hanukkah Party, inviting only 400 or 500 guests, compared to last year's 800. An unnamed Jewish official told the Jerusalem Post that in the wake of the recession, the administration can't spend substantial sums on holiday parties.
The issue, they noted, was exacerbated by the need to serve kosher food, with one official calculating that this increased the price tag by 33 percent.
However, President George W. Bush only invited--and made enough Kosher latkes for--400 guests at his first Hanukkah Party in office, and the guest list increased over his two terms. Another Jewish leader explained, "The Obamas want to have room for 'natural growth' of the list over the next few years."
Another key issue is the number of Jewish Democrats versus the number of Jewish Republicans. As Tevi Troy, a former White House Jewish liaison under George W. Bush, points out:
Fully 78 percent of Jewish voters supported the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008, and Jewish fund-raisers figured prominently in the campaign. Reducing the size of the guest list, as Obama officials want to do, will therefore be an extremely difficult task. Just inviting the more than 40 Democratic members of Congress and their spouses will take a significant portion of the allotted spots, let alone the expected invites to Jewish senior staffers and large-dollar donors.
But head of the D.C. office of the non-partisan non-profit Jewish Federation of North America William Daroff told Politico that the most important thing is that the party is actually happening:
"What I've heard is that people are pleased that the president is continuing this tradition....there are a number of years left in the Obama Administration for more parties and more people to attend."