On the night before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the mood among more than 40 foreign diplomats, members of Congress and new administration officials at a swanky Washington club was one of friendly bipartisanship.
They enjoyed wine and hors d’oeuvres courtesy of the American Jewish Committee, which threw the Jan. 19 reception in what it hopes will be a period of strong relations among the organization and the Trump administration, Congress and the American Jewish community, as well as between the United States, Israel and Jewish communities in other countries.
“It’s an important aspect of who we are as a nation, that we’re governed by the people and that the transition take place,” said Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), who was re-elected to Congress last year after losing his seat in 2014.
Schneider said he is concerned about the anti-Semitism he has seen over the last few weeks, including two waves of bomb threats at Jewish community centers.
“This is a real concern that has to be taken seriously,” he said. “We had seen anti-Semitism on the rise around the world and we’re seeing incidents here at home. We have to stay vigilant in the Jewish community. We have to make sure Jews feel safe in our country and both our parties, Democrat and Republican.”
Foreign officials expressed optimism about the new president and administration.
Trump in office “will definitely mean change, and I think that’s positive change,” said Larry Rubin, who jokingly referred to himself as “all of the minorities” … a “Mexican-American Jewish Republican.”
“People many times are afraid of change,” he said, “but I think the next administration coming in with Mr. Trump will find a great opportunity to start a new era with different countries, including Mexico. It will be an era where Mexico is expecting change, but change is not necessarily something negative.”
Rubin is president of the American Society of Mexico, a nonprofit that works to foster friendship between Mexico and the United States. When asked about Trump’s tough stance on immigration and proposal to build a wall on U.S.-Mexico border, Rubin acknowledged that the rhetoric has had an effect on the population in his home country.
“These individuals know very well the relationship and the importance of Mexico to the U.S., so even though people might be worried because of the rhetoric, what they’ll find with President Trump is a person that’s fair and a person that is really looking out for the U.S.’s best interests.”
AJC officials, too, looked at the incoming administration with high hopes.
“I think the opportunity for Israel and America in Asia is phenomenal,” said Nissim Reuben, an Indian Jew and assistant director of the AJC’s Asia Pacific Institute. “There is a lot of good will. There is a lot of respect for both countries and Asia, and we just hope this will be further strengthened.”