Conscience must trump political expedience

A call on Jews to take a collective moral stance against Donald Trump and everything he stands for
Then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the 2016 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference at the Verizon Center, on Monday, March 21, 2016, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)
Then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the 2016 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference at the Verizon Center, on Monday, March 21, 2016, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)

In the wake of the hatred displayed in Charlottesville, let’s take a moment to look back at the moral dilemma posed last March of 2016 when AIPAC invited Donald Trump to speak at their Policy Conference. At that time, I wrote “Donald Trump and our Esther moment” warning that the moral turpitude implied by the invitation, reflected on all Jews. One can draw a meaningful line between AIPAC’s decision to offer Trump a public platform and the abdication of responsibility by communal leaders that has contributed to the rise of hateful venom in America today. We must, as a Jewish community, speak out against this president’s moral bankruptcy.

The faulty logic that led AIPAC’s leadership to invite Trump reminds us that there are consequences when Jewish organizations maintain a myopic focus at the expense of larger moral and ethical obligations.

In March, the leaders of AIPAC attempted to cover their actions claiming that all contenders for the presidency, particularly those who have a real chance of winning, are invited to speak at the conference. Trump posed a particularly vexing problem for AIPAC. As a “single issue” political lobby, AIPAC was attempting to preserve its effectiveness and access to the executive branch of our government in the event of a Trump victory.

The decision to invite Trump made by AIPAC’s leadership was a shortsighted decision. It furthered the rise of racist, xenophobic, sexist, and anti-Semitic impulses in his followers. I wrote then, “It is an affront to Jews of good conscience to invite Donald Trump to speak at this conference. Trump’s behavior and rhetoric are simply not in keeping with a tradition that is based on intellectual, moral, and ethical conscience.” And I added that, “His rhetoric supporting violence against those who disagree with him contradicts the most basic Jewish values”.

Despite losing the popular vote by a very wide margin, and due to the antiquated system we use for presidential elections, Trump won. From the first moment of his administration, Trump has confirmed that he is not intellectually or morally fit to hold the highest office of our land. He has brought with him a cabal of vile and dangerous supporters, some of whom shockingly hold positions of governmental power that have previously been reserved for thoughtful and morally sound individuals. The pall cast upon our entire country is embarrassing and the existential danger to the world is unique in the Post-Cold War era.

The recent events in Charlottesville are an extreme example of the violent racist malignancy still festering in our country. As chilling and as tragic as they are, we must also recognize that Trump’s behavior in the aftermath was predictable. Trump is vile and his ideologies are vile. He is a grave danger to us all. Thankfully, this week the Republican Jewish Coalition made a public statement calling on President Trump to speak with moral clarity. The Rabbinical Council of America, an Orthodox group, issued a similarly strong censure. They have joined other Jewish communal organizations from across the political and denominational spectrum condemning the domestic terrorism in Charlottesville and also Trump’s disappointing and predictable response.

I vociferously argued against Trump’s inclusion at the Policy Conference in 2016 because giving him a platform was an abandonment of the duty our communal leaders are charged with. We must never choose political or economic expediency over moral leadership and moral clarity. Jewish communal organizations must reflect, uphold, and guard the moral and ethical foundation that defines Judaism. Conscience requires we stand against people like Trump and the vile elements that lurk in his wake. Let us stand together and rise above petty politics. We must remind ourselves and those we serve that we can and must stand against Trump and the wave of darkness he is ushering in.

About the Author
Adam R. Bronfman is the President of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation.
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