Rabbi Marvin Hier: Trump’s Court Jew?

Forward Magazine - - Contents - By Josh Nathan-Kazis

The dawn­ing of the Don­ald Trump era has been very good for Rabbi Marvin Hier.

The founder and leader of the Los An­ge­les-based Si­mon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter, Hier has been a pub­lic fig­ure since the 1970s; an of­ten-noisy voice on anti-Semitism and Holo­caust re­mem­brance. But since Jan­uary, there’s been a change: Now, the whole coun­try is lis­ten­ing.

In the seven months since he de­liv­ered a prayer at Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion, Hier has as­cended to the A-list of un­of­fi­cial spokes­men for the Jews.

“I will say that I get a lot of calls,” Hier told the For­ward in June. “What can I do? I’m not go­ing to deny that.”

Since the be­gin­ning of the year, Hier has had more press men­tions that he did in the pre­vi­ous two and a half years put to­gether — more men­tions than all but one other Jewish leader, ac­cord­ing to the me­dia data­base Nexis.

In May, he was one of only two Amer­i­cans in­vited to light a torch at Is­rael’s of­fi­cial In­de­pen­dence Day cer­e­mony on Mt. Herzl. Days later, he showed up in the Rose Gar­den to de­liver an­other prayer, this time at a sign­ing cer­e­mony for an ex­ec­u­tive or­der.

Hier has even earned a new so­bri­quet, used in news­pa­per head­lines and in the sub­ject lines of his press re­leases: “Trump’s In­au­gu­ra­tion Rabbi.”

The Trump era ar­rived at a mo­ment of flux in the top ranks of Jewish com­mu­nal lead­er­ship. The po­si­tion of Amer­i­can Jewry’s com­mu­nal fig­ure­head had been va­cant since 2015, when Anti-Defama­tion League Na­tional Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Fox­man re­tired. Hier seemed like a long-shot for that un­of­fi­cial post. His re­la­tion­ship with the Jewish es­tab­lish­ment has never been warm. And his own or­ga­ni­za­tion was suf­fer­ing from some pub­lic re­la­tions is­sues.

But Trump’s vic­tory changed ev­ery­thing, and Hier was wait­ing in the wings, ready to sweep in and be­came of­fi­cial Jewry’s main con­nec­tion to the White House.

Hier is the only prom­i­nent Amer­i­can Jewish leader ready to stand next to the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent. That will­ing­ness has vaulted him into a lead­er­ship po­si­tion over a com­mu­nity whose ladder he re­fused to climb.

“They see their jobs as sav­ing the Jewish peo­ple by pro­ject­ing strength,” said one veteran Jewish pro­fes­sional at a ma­jor na­tional Jewish or­ga­ni­za­tion, who asked not to be named to pre­serve re­la­tion­ships. “For the Si­mon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter, it’s, ‘We’re not go­ing back into the ovens. You’re not go­ing to push us back into the ovens.’”

Rabbi Marvin Hier is the founder and leader of the Si­mon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter.

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