Rabbis Pull Out of Call With Trump in Wake of Charlottesville

Trump has “given succor to those who advocate anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia.”

Rabbi Marvin Hier offers a prayer prior to United States President Donald J. Trump signing a Proclamation designating May 4, 2017 as a National Day of Prayer and an Executive Order ''Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty.''Ron Sachs/Zuma

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

Following President Donald Trump’s decision to blame “both sides” for the deadly violence in Charlottesville, several major groups of rabbis have announced that they will not be participating this year in an annual call with the president. “President Trump’s statements during and after the tragic events in Charlottesville,” the groups wrote in a letter released on Wednesday, “are so lacking in moral leadership and empathy for the victims of racial and religious hatred that we cannot organize such a call this year.”

During the Obama administration, Jewish groups began hosting a call between the president and rabbis around the country in the lead up to the Jewish High Holidays. Last year, more than 600 rabbis joined a call in which President Barack Obama said that his administration had helped lead the effort to fight global anti-Semitism.

In Wednesday’s letter, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Rabbinical Assembly, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism blasted Trump’s response to the white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville. The president, the rabbis said, has “given succor to those who advocate anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia.” Collectively, the groups represent thousands of Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative rabbis in the United States. Despite Trump’s claims to the contrary, the groups said blame for the violence “does not lie with many sides but with one side: the Nazi, alt-right and white supremacists who brought their hate to a peaceful community.”

“Our tradition teaches us that humanity is fallible yet also capable of change,” the rabbis wrote. “We pray that President Trump will recognize and remedy the grave error he has made in abetting the voices of hatred.”

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.”

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate