An open letter to Donald Trump from Orthodox rabbis

The Orthodox Community Responds to Donald Trump at AIPAC

March 18, 2016

Dear Mr. Trump:

We are writing to you as you prepare to address the largest pro-Israel gathering in North America. We care deeply not only about America’s relationship with Israel, but the values and character of this special land. We hope you will use this occasion to articulate the values that friends of Israel hold so dear.

To begin, you should use this opportunity to categorically repudiate racism. There is simply no place for it in our shared discourse. As the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel enshrined in law its commitment to protect the rights all of its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex. When the Jewish people returned to Israel after centuries of persecution and exile, they chose to pursue a path of inclusivity. Rather than perpetuate a culture of prejudice, they chose instead to create a culture of tolerance. Freedom of worship is sacrosanct in the Holy Land and upon its founding, Israel’s government vowed to safeguard the holy places of all religions. You should declare in no uncertain terms that bigotry is as dangerous as it is wrong.

We also call upon you to denounce the language of hatred and xenophobia. There is no mitzvah in the Torah repeated more often than the embrace of the stranger. The Jewish story is itself the history of exiles seeking shelter; of refugees seeking asylum. And since it became a sovereign nation, Israel has proudly stood by and supported peoples of all backgrounds in their times of need: From Haiti to Taiwan; from Sudan to Nepal. Jewish tradition demands that we look past what separates us and instead keep our eyes trained on our shared humanity.

Finally, you need to reassure our community that you understand that there can be no moral equivalency between a sovereign government acting in self-defense on the one hand and a terrorist organization committed to genocide on the other. The pro-Israel community is starving for peace. The notion of shalom represents one of our greatest aspirations – one for which we pray daily. But a lasting peace will only come with the help of a political ally who recognizes Israel’s right to self-determination. Let your listeners know that you would never strong-arm Israel into negotiating a peace deal when Israel has no partner for peace.

Mr. Trump: In these fraught times, make it clear to the pro-Israel community that you stand not only with Israel’s people, but with Israel’s principles. We cannot abide a discourse that inflames intolerance and foments fanaticism. The future of our people is too important.

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein

Rabbi Herschel Billet

Rabbi Yisroel Ciner

Rabbi Daniel Cohen

Rabbi Mark Dratch

Rabbi Yitzchok Feldman

Rabbi Joel Finkelstein

Rabbi Barry Gelman

Rabbi Yaakov Gibber

Rabbi Yaakov Glasser

Rabbi Efrem Goldberg

Rabbi Zev Goldberg

Rabbi Moshe Grussgott

Rabbi Kenneth Hain

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

Rabbi Joshua Hess

Rabbi Daniel Korobkin

Rabbi Simcha Krauss

Rabbi Joel Landau

Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz

Rabbi Yosie Levine

Rabbi Marc Mandel

Rabbi Adam Mintz

Rabbi Jonathan Muskat

Rabbi Elazar Muskin

Rabbi Ariel Rackovsky

Rabbi Zev Reichman

Rabbi Shaul Robinson

Rabbi Zvi Romm

Rabbi Allen Schwartz

Rabbi Ronald Schwarzberg

Rabbi Mordechai Sevy

Rabbi Adam Starr

Rabbi Josh Strulowitz

Rabbi Mayer Waxman

Rabbi Jay Weinstein

Rabbi Neil N. Winkler

Rabbi Alan J. Yuter

Rabbi Dovid Zirkind

About the Author
Rabbi Yosie Levine is the Rabbi of The Jewish Center. He earned a BA in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia College and remains an active alumnus. A Wexner Graduate Fellow, Rabbi Levine received rabbinic ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and was the winner of RIETS' writing prize. He holds an MPA in Public Policy from NYU's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Early Modern Jewish History at Yeshiva University's Bernard Revel Graduate School. He is co-chair of the Manhattan Eruv and is active in numerous communal organizations including AIPAC and the Beth Din of America and serves on the Board of UJA-Federation of New York.
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