WASHINGTON (JTA) — Azerbaijan’s embassy is hosting a Hanukkah party at a hotel owned by President-elect Donald Trump and his family.
The party will take place Dec. 14 and will celebrate “freedom and diversity,” said the invitation, obtained Friday by JTA, a signal of closer ties between the west Asian nation and Israel and some of its supporters in the United States. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is co-hosting the event.
Israel and Azerbaijan, a mostly Muslim nation on the Caspian Sea, have strengthened relations in recent years. Azerbaijan, which is reportedly Israel’s biggest oil supplier and a key purchaser of Israeli arms, sent a firefighting plane to Israel last months as fires swept the country.
The Conference of Presidents, made up of the leadership of over 50 Jewish organizations, is a consensus body representing the organized Jewish community to the executive branch.
A number of other embassies have booked space in the Trump International Hotel for events around Trump’s inauguration next month, and a range of experts on government ethics have raised questions about the propriety of diplomats paying to stay at the hotel when they have separate business with the U.S. government.
Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice-chairman of the umbrella body, told JTA that the Azerbaijani embassy had rented the location because of its proximity to the White House, where President Barack Obama’s final Hanukkah Party will be taking place the same evening.
Trump has said he will shut himself off from his businesses, although he has not said whether his adult children, who are co-owners of the hotel, will do the same. He plans to outline how he will separate his business and government affairs on Dec. 15 at a press conference.
The choice of venue was criticized in a statement issued by Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, which is a liberal member of the Conference of Presidents and has been critical of Trump. Given Trump’s own ongoing efforts to resolve potential conflicts involving his businesses, Jacobs said, it would have been “far preferable” to choose another location in downtown Washington.