American rabbis cancel High Holy Days White House call over Trump’s Charlottesville comments

Groups across the religious spectrum accuse president of ‘giving succour to those who advocate antisemitism’


Four American rabbinical groups have cancelled an annual presidential pre-High Holidays conference call, accusing Donald Trump of giving “succour” to antisemites and citing his “lack of moral leadership and empathy for the victims of religious hatred”.

The Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Rabbinical Assembly, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the Religious Action Centre for Reform Judaism announced yesterday that “we cannot organise such a call this year.

“The President’s words have given succour to those who advocate antisemitism, racism, and xenophobia”, the statement continued.

“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”.

In the wake of a neo-Nazi rally 10 days ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacists chanted incendiary slogans, including “Jews will not replace us” and “blood and soil”, an English translation of the Nazi motto blud und boden. A white supremacist also drove into a crowd of protestors, killing one and injuring many. At a conference days later, Mr Trump said there had been “very fine people, on both sides”.

Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Centre, told the New York Times that the call had been planned to go ahead with Mr Trump as it had in previous years – until Mr Trump’s comments about Charlottesville.

“Charlottesville created a new reality,” he said.

“It’s not that big a rabbinical community. We’re all showing up for each other and there’s a lot of anger out there.”

The groups in question represent Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Judaism.

“Our tradition teaches us that humanity is fallible yet also capable of change”, their statement continued.

“We pray that President Trump will recognise and remedy the grave error he has made in abetting the voices of hatred.

“We pray that those who traffic in antisemitism, racism, and xenophobia will see that there is no place for such pernicious philosophies in a civilised society. And we pray that 5778 will be a year of peace for all.

The Rabbinical Council of America, an Orthodox organisation which has also joined the conference call in previous years, has not yet announced its own position, although the group did release a statement last week condemning “any suggestion of moral equivalency between the white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville and those who stood up to their repugnant messages and actions”.

Rabbi Elazar Muskin, president of the RCA, added at the time that “while as a rabbinic organisation 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."

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