Most U.S. rabbis boycott Trump’s phone call over his Charlottesville remarks
While three major American Jewish denominations boycotted the president’s annual call for the High Holy Days, President Trump addressed a smaller group of Jewish leaders Friday morning, condemning people who spread antiSemitism and other kinds of hate.
The call came one day after Trump doubled down on remarks he made condemning both sides during racially charged clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville last month. During the demonstrations, white supremacists held torches and chanted antiSemitic and Nazi slogans, including “Jews will not replace us.”
Last month, the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist denominations — representing the large majority of American Jewish congregations — announced after Trump’s remarks equating the Charlottesville neo-Nazi protesters with antifascists that they would not participate in the call.
That left mostly Orthodox rabbis calling in. Trump spoke to the leaders for less than 10 minutes, with no question-and-answer period, according to three leaders who participated in the call.
The participants said White House officials asked them not to speak to the media about the call. But they described its contents: Trump expressed his admiration for the Jewish community’s contributions to American society. He expressed his “love” for Israel because of its “shared values” with the United States, and he said his administration is fighting against anti-Israel bias at the United Nations.
As he wished the leaders a good Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year that falls next week, Trump said that he hopes his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, will make progress on a peace agreement with Palestinian leaders by the end of the next Jewish year.
Many in the Orthodox community have supported Trump because they preferred his policies on Israel to Hillary Clinton’s.
But Trump has been accused of not doing enough to fight hate crimes, and many of his supporters have been associated with antiSemitic speech. A recent survey found that 77 percent of Jews have an unfavorable opinion of the president, with the rate of disapproval higher among Reform Jews, the largest denomination in the United States.
Only 11 percent of Reform Jews have a favorable opinion of Trump, compared with 71 percent of Orthodox Jews.
Kushner, who is Jewish and serves as Trump’s senior adviser, introduced him on the call. The participants said that Trump did not directly address the anti-Semitic chants in Charlottesville, though some interpreted his condemnation of anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry as an indirect reference to the events last month.