NEW YORK – Several US rabbinical organizations have decided this year not to organize their annual conference call with the president, in which he traditionally offers his greetings to American rabbis for the High Holy Days, due to Donald Trump’s controversial statements following the events in Charlottesville last week.
“We have concluded that President Trump’s statements during and after the tragic events in Charlottesville 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,” they wrote in their letter, released on Wednesday.
The rabbinical groups, which include the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Rabbinical Assembly, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said that Trump’s words “have given succor to those who advocate antisemitism, racism and xenophobia.”
Trump has been under fire over the past week for condemning violence “on many sides” in Charlottesville, where a young woman was killed by a white supremacist who drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters.
Republicans, business leaders and even sports stars have criticized the president for his initial failure to unequivocally condemn white supremacy and neo-Nazism.
“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,” the rabbis continued. “They must be roundly condemned at all levels.”
The High Holy Days, they added, are “an opportunity for each of us to examine our own words and deeds through the lens of America’s ongoing struggle with racism.
“Our tradition teaches us that humanity is fallible yet also capable of change,” the letter said. “We pray that President Trump will recognize 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 civilized society and we pray that 5778 will be a year of peace for all.”
Jewish leaders across the US have blamed the president’s rhetoric and actions for creating the atmosphere that led to the deadly violence in Charlottesville and said the 2016 presidential campaign “fanned the flames” of racial and religious bigotry.