A prominent coalition of American rabbis has decided not to hold its annual conference call with the president to mark Jewish holidays, citing Donald Trump’s remarks on the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, as supporting “those who advocate anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia.”
“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 groups — the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Rabbinical Assembly, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism — said in a statement.
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The coalition represents the leaders of much of the U.S. Jewish community, with the exception of Orthodox Jews, who have been much more supportive of Trump. His daughter Ivanka and her family are Orthodox Jews. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
The call, which is organized by the Reform rabbis group CCAR, is a standard event for presidents each year. Rabbi Steve Fox, CCAR’s executive director, said former President Barack Obama participated in each year of his administration.
“These are religious issues, not political issues. It is important that the president steps forward as a moral leader on these issues,” Fox said in an interview. “As the leader of the U.S. and the leader of the free world, we believe it is his obligation to condemn these white supremacists.”
Fox said Trump’s response to the Charlottesville unrest — among other comments, the president said there were “very fine people” amid a crowd of white supremacists and neo-Nazis protesting in defense of a Confederate statue — put the celebration of the Jewish High Holy Days at risk.
“We pray that President Trump will recognize and remedy the grave error he has made in abetting the voices of hatred,” the group said. “We pray that those who traffic in anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia will see that there is no place for such pernicious philosophies in a civilized society.”
Trump has faced a barrage of criticism since the Charlottesville white supremacist rally that left one person dead. Trump has defended his response that “many sides” are to blame for the violence that ensued. At a campaign rally in Phoenix on Tuesday, the president accused the media of misrepresenting his response and read parts of his initial remarks, though he omitted the controversial language that seemingly placed blame on counter-protesters.
Most members on Trump’s evangelical council, meanwhile, have not distanced themselves from the president. A.R. Bernard, who once a member of the Evangelical Advisory Board, said on Friday that he resigned due to a “deepening conflict in values” between himself and the Trump administration.