The Donald J. Trump administration’s discriminatory rhetoric has united religious minorities to mobilize and fight back. Most recently, hundreds of rabbis boycotted the annual High Holy Day call, in which Trump conveyed wishes to Jewish leaders ahead of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year that begins this evening.
After the white supremacist rally and resulting terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Va., the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist denominations – which represent more than 4,000 synagogues and the majority of American Jewish congregations – released a statement saying they would not participate in the annual call. The groups were angry over Trump’s response to what happened in Charlottesville and with good cause: He failed to strongly condemn neo-Nazis and falsely insisted that “both sides” were to blame for the violence. He later defended his response.
“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,” the rabbis’ statement said. “The president’s words have given succor to those who advocate anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia. 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 their march in Charlottesville, white supremacists chanted (among other vile things), “Jews will not replace us.” (And yet Trump thought it was fine to blame “both sides”!)
According to White House transcripts, Trump said during the call that “we forcefully condemn those who seek to incite anti-Semitism or to spread any form of slander and hate – and I will ensure we protect Jewish communities, and all communities, that face threats to their safety.”
Those are nice words, and it’s a shame they aren’t backed by any meaningful action.
Trump's rhetoric often plays a role in making religious minorities feel unsafe.
It is impossible to know what is in Trump’s heart, but we do know that his rhetoric often resonates with many of his anti-Semitic supporters, and he’s not doing enough to fight the spike of anti-Semitism we’ve seen since he came to power. His Holocaust Remembrance Day statement failed to mention Jews, and when Jewish community centers were receiving threats, Trump mostly remained mum and gave a delayed condemnation.
Trump’s actions have led to his unpopularity with the Jewish community. The upside is, we’re seeing a lot more activism. Since Trump took office, Jews and members of other religious minority groups have joined AU’s efforts to fight the Muslim ban, protect the Johnson Amendment and more.
“As Jews, we understand personally what it is to be a religious minority in this nation and the pain that religious discrimination causes; we will not stand idly by as such discrimination is made into law,” Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, said Monday when her organization joined AU and other allies in filing a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge Trump’s Muslim ban.
No one should face discrimination, feel unsafe or endure harassment because of their religious beliefs – or lack thereof. Religious freedom is about fairness. That’s why we continue to advocate for equality for religious and non-religious groups. At Americans United, we welcome people of all faith and none to join our important work.