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.

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