In an annual Rosh Hashana call to Jewish organizations, Trump omitted the liberal denominations that announced in advance they would decline.
By: Adina Katz, World Israel News
Following White House tradition, US President Donald Trump made an annual conference call Friday to influential Jewish organizations ahead of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, which begins this year on Wednesday evening.
Aside from political and advocacy movements, the religious denominations included in the call notably included only orthodox groups.
Spokespeople from the Reform and Reconstructionist denominations confirmed they were not on the invitation list, and the CEO of the Conservative movement declined the invitation, JTA reported.
Leaders of the non-orthodox denominations – furious at Trump for blaming the “many sides” for the deadly rampage in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August that ended with the death of a counter-protester at a White Supremacist march – said they would refuse to participate in a Rosh Hashana call with the president.
Trump revisited the Charlottesville issue Thursday. Speaking to reporters on Air Force One after meeting with Hurricane Irma victims in Florida, he said there are people realizing he “may have a point” when blaming both sides.
”When you look at really what’s happened since Charlottesville, a lot of people are saying and people have actually written, ‘Gee, Trump may have a point.’ I said there’s some very bad people on the other side also,” he added, referring to Antifa, which stands for “anti-fascists” although it has been violently protesting any event that counters their political agenda. In fact, on Thursday evening, at least nine people were arrested, including four with weapons, at University of California, Berkeley California during protests against an address by Conservative radio talk show host Ben Shapiro. UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said security measures would cost the university approximately $600,000.
Whether or not one agrees with the president, it is important for the community to maintain open discussion with administration, the orthodox leaders said.
Nathan Diament, the Washington director of the Orthodox Union, said the call was part of the natural back-and-forth between the Jewish community and the administration.
“He is the president of the United States and we must engage with him on issues of importance to the community,” explained Nathan Diament, Washington director of the Orthodox Union, JTA reported.
“Openness to people who do not share your opinion may not always be easy, but it always remains necessary,” said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice-president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), according to JTA. “Conversation will always bring better results than the opposite.”
‘Why Stupidly Insult the President?’
Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, told JTA he participated in similar calls with former US President Barack Obama, although he rarely agreed with him. “Why stupidly insult the president, who we need for those issues [concerning Jews and Israel]?” he asked.
Avi Shafran, director of public relations for Agudath Israel of America, said the liberal groups who insulted the president were “wrong.” In an opinion piece published in The Forward, he wrote:
“There is a difference between respectfully asking a president to clarify that he does not equate proponents of white supremacism with protesters against the same, and, however one might feel about him, publicly and starkly insulting our nation’s duly elected national leader.
“What is more, and even more pertinent here, is the fact that the Jewish religious tradition is very clear on the matter of showing honor to governmental leaders.”
Jared Kushner, Trump’s Jewish son-in-law and senior adviser, introduced the Rosh Hashana call Friday, saying the president’s “love and respect for the Jewish people extends way beyond his family and into the heart of Jewish American communities.”
“Under the president’s leadership, America’s relationship with the State of Israel has never been stronger, and our country’s commitment to Israel’s security has never been greater,” Kushner stated.
In his message, Trump said he was “honored beyond words” to have the participation of several Holocaust survivors in the call and was “proud to stand with the Jewish people and with our cherished friend and ally, the State of Israel.”
“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,” he asserted.
The president cited success in pressuring the UN “to withdraw the unfair and biased report against Israel — that was a horrible thing that they did — and to instead focus on real threats to our security, such as Iran, Hezbollah, and ISIS.”
He also expressed optimism towards achieving a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.