The Washington Post reports that U.S. rabbis representing Reform Jewish, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements (but not Orthodox) have issued a joint statement saying they will not hold their annual conference call with Donald Trump ahead of the Jewish High Holidays, a regular conversation that happened throughout President Barack Obama’s terms. The decision comes following the violence in Charlottesville and cites a “lack of leadership.” From the statement:
“The president’s words have given succor to those who advocate anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia,” they wrote. “Responsibility for the violence that occurred in Charlottesville, including the death of Heather Heyer, does not lie with many sides but with one side: the Nazis, alt-right and white supremacists who brought their hate to a peaceful community. They must be roundly condemned at all levels.”
During Obama’s presidency,
The calls began… as a way for the broader rabbinical community to hear supportive words from the president ahead of their most holy days. Each denomination then had a chance to ask him a question. Most years the first question would be about Israel, Pesner said, and in later years, questions arose around racial justice and the global refugee crisis.
Trump’s family are Orthodox Jews, and so far Orthodox rabbis have not issued a statement regarding the conference call, though they have spoken out critically against Trump’s response to Charlottesville:
“Failure to unequivocally reject hatred and bias is a failing of moral leadership and fans the flames of intolerance and chauvinism,” the Orthodox rabbis wrote. “While as a rabbinical organization we prefer to address issues and not personalities, this situation rises above partisan politics and therefore we are taking the unusual approach to directly comment on the words of the president.”
And Mother Jones has published comments by rabbis close to the Trump family:
Rabbis at Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s synagogue in New York have also criticized the president’s Charlottesville response. “While we always avoid politics,” three rabbis at the congregation wrote last week, “we are deeply troubled by the moral equivalency and equivocation President Trump has offered in his response to this act of violence.” One of the rabbis who signed the letter, Haskel Lookstein, presided over Ivanka Trump’s conversion to Judaism.
On Tuesday, Marvin Hier, a rabbi who offered a Jewish prayer at Trump’s inauguration, said the solar eclipse provided a metaphor that the president should consider. “The moon is 400 times smaller than the sun, yet the moon had the capacity to do a complete eclipse on the sun,” he told Business Insider. “Now that should teach us about bigots and haters who started out as small groups.”
Photo from February protest outside the Trump hotel, from JTA via the Times of Israel