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Earlier this week, we released a statament the CCAR regarding Donald Trump's upcoming appearance at the AIPAC Policy Conference. Although we never oppose or endorse candidates for office, we cannot ignore the many issues on which Mr. Trump has spoken clearly. His campaign has been replete with naked appeals to bigotry, especially against Hispanics and Muslims. Previous comments he has made - and not disavowed - have been offensive to women, people of color, and other groups. In recent days, increasingly, he appears to have gone out of his way to encourage violence at his campaign events.
We promised to find an appropriate way to make our views and values known to Mr. Trump. Today, I am pleased to share with you that we are doing just that in ways that reflect our commitment to Torah, tradition, and our history of civic engagement.
First, we have been in contact with Mr. Trump's campaign to request a meeting at the earliest possible date where we can share our concerns with him directly. We have noted particular concerns around his words, those of his surrogates, and those who have appeared at his campaign events pertaining to women's equality, the right of Americans of all faiths and no faith to participate in the political process and hold political office, the rights of people with disabilities, our status as a nation of immigrants, the repudiation of torture, and more.
Below is the text of the letter we sent to Mr. Trump. We encourage you to add your voice by tweeting at @realdonaldtrump and using the AIPAC Policy Conference hashtags #cometogether and #PC16. Be sure to include @URJ, too.
Dear Mr. Trump,
On behalf of the 1.5 million Reform Jews of the Union for Reform Judaism and the 2,000 rabbis of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, I write to request a meeting at the soonest possible date.
The Reform Jewish Movement is the largest stream of North American Jewry, comprising an active and engaged membership that has a history of involvement in issues of civic concern and social justice. From civil rights to Soviet Jewry, from climate change to Israel, we are proud of the leadership our Movement has shown within the Jewish, faith and broader communities of which we are a part. Our work reflects the unique American tradition of faith involvement in the civic affairs of the nation.
Your campaign has surfaced issues of significant concern to us. Your words, those of your surrogates, and those who have appeared at your campaign events have raised questions about your commitment to women's equality, the right of Americans of all faiths and no faith to participate in the political process and hold political office, the rights of people with disabilities, our status as a nation of immigrants, the repudiation of torture, and more. We are eager to speak with you directly about these concerns and explore your views in greater depth.
- On Mexican Immigrants: "They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists" (6/16/15). How do such statements, offensive to Hispanics and others, reflect our shared history as a nation of immigrants or further our national security.
- On Women: Following the first Republican debate, you retweeted a comment from a supporter who crudely referred to moderator Megyn Kelly a "bimbo" (8/24/15). How does this statement reflect respect for women as equal contributors to all aspects of society?
- On Jews: At your March 14 campaign rally in North Carolina, Pastor Mark Burns spoke from the podium and said, "Bernie Sanders who doesn't believe in God. How in the world are we going to let Bernie? I mean really? Listen, Bernie gotta get saved. He gotta meet Jesus." How does your decision not to repudiate these remarks reflect your beliefs about religious tests for office, which are unconstitutional and hurtful to Americans of faith. (3/14/15)
- On Muslims: Your campaign has called for a "Complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on" (12/7/15). Does this proposal suggest your belief that all Muslims are a threat to national security? And how does this position reflect our nation's history as a beacon of religious liberty and a haven from persecution?
- On Violence: You have told supporters to "Just knock the hell" out of protestors, promising to pay their legal fees (2/1/16). How does your refusal to explicitly condemn violence reflect our nation's commitment to free speech and robust political discourse?
Our views on leadership are inspired by the words of Pirke Avot 4:1 (The Ethics of the Fathers) that remind us: "Who is wise? One who learns from every person. Who is strong? One who subdues one's evil inclination. Who is rich? One who is happy with one's lot. Who is honored? One who honors others.
I look forward to discussing these and other areas of concern with you and to your swift and affirmative reply. I will follow-up with a phone call to set up a time to meet.
Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director
Religious Action Center
In the spirit of our commitment to Jewish text, as well as to dialogue, we have created a resource for you to use in your home and in your congregation as you talk with others about issues of leadership and human dignity. Our tradition has much to teach us about the qualities of leadership and how we act in ways that reflect the Divine spark within every individual. We encourage you to read and consider these texts before listening to Mr. Trump's speech at AIPAC and then to continue to use them in the weeks and months to come as the election campaign continues.
The challenges that confront us as a nation and as Reform Jews are complex and varied. But what remain constant are our commitment to Torah and the imperative of speaking truth to power.