Congratulations to you on the victory of your father-in-law becoming the President-Elect. The election was fair and the people have spoken. However, this election has left a deeply divided country, many of us fearful because of things Mr. Trump has said and the groups that allied with him. We must see the repudiation of racism and bigotry, and Donald Trump must extend the hand of peace and wholeness.
You have claimed that Donald Trump is not an Anti-Semite. However, his words of divisiveness preyed on the fearful and the hate mongers. Groups including the Alt-Right, White Supremacists, and the Ku Klux Klan have rallied to your father-in-law finding permission to boldly and blatantly express their despicable views. This cannot be abided.
You uniquely have the president-elect’s ear as a confidante and advisor. You must use your position to speak on behalf of those genuinely fearful of persecution and loss of civil rights under the protection of a Trump Administration. The values you hold as an American and a Jew are antithetical to hatred and bigotry. Your full-throated voice must be raised to help heal and bring our country together, re-assuring all our citizens they are safe, their civil rights intact and sure, that all of us enjoy the full protection of law and dignity.
I am troubled by the pending appearances of the presidential candidates at the AIPAC conference. It is important to hear from them. However, the value is in the substance of the presentation, not the celebrity surrounding it. We do not need a beauty pageant. I am concerned about the substance.
Candidates appear in venues like AIPAC order to get votes, hoping to share a message that appeals to the group. Unfortunately, in these constricted spaces it is unlikely that they will deliver a complete message and will instead present little more than some populist pandering to the voting block represented by AIPAC. I expect that each candidate will offer some rhetoric about his/her commitment to a strong and secure Israel. But we need more than words. Each candidate needs to elaborate a thoughtful policy of both a strategic and tactical process to strengthen the relationship between Israel and the United States and secure stability in the region. A single speech at the AIPAC conference cannot do this. Platitudes and promises whether eloquent or crass are worthless.
We in the rabbinic community are struggling with Donald Trump’s appearance in particular at the AIPAC conference. The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) have taken a stand to express deep discontent with the hatred, bigotry and bullying that seems to characterize much of Trump’s message. The URJ and the CCAR are stating core Jewish principles. But this statement raises important overall questions about appearances at the AIPAC conference by the candidates.
The last time Mr. Trump publicly referenced Jews, we saw anti-Semitic canards played out on the public stage in the form of jokes. Jews in the room laughed nervously and uncomfortably at the joke, but it was not funny. Such words combined with other inflammatory divisive speech leads me to reluctantly conclude that this forum is not the appropriate place for Trump or his rhetoric. But such a position stands in direct opposition to my belief in free speech and the open exchange of ideas.
It is unrealistic to call upon AIPAC to rescind the invitations to the candidates. AIPAC needs to remain nonpartisan and promote its pro-Israel agenda. Conference attendees should be respectful of all speakers. No one, however, should be swayed by a single speech. It is critically important we look to the individual’s corpus of speeches and the existing records of each candidate to truly determine where they stand on Israel as part of a cohesive vision of American leadership and on the fundamental principles that we hold sacrosanct. Then we all must vote.