Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg, in part worried that terrorists could slip into the country among Syrian refugees, has started a Facebook group in support of Donald Trump.
Although the rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth El in Edison does not appear fully on board with the Republican presidential candidate’s populist platform, he said he decided to support Trump because he is the GOP frontrunner.
“I started Rabbis for Trump because he’s the leader among all the Republicans at this point,” said Rosenberg in a phone conversation with NJJN. “I also wanted a vehicle to communicate a very strong message to him for supporting the State of Israel. I think the media is blowing up much of what he is saying with regard to the Muslims.”
Rosenberg is unfazed by Trump’s call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States. Rosenberg noted that President Jimmy Carter placed strict controls on Iranian visa-holders during the hostage crisis in 1979.
“My concern is that these Syrian refugees are not being vetted by the FBI,” said Rosenberg, the son of Holocaust survivors who has described himself as a refugee born in a displaced persons’ camp in Germany. “There’s no comparison between this and the Holocaust, where Jews had nowhere to go to. Certainly in this case Europe can take them in and certainly the Arab countries can take them in. I just don’t want something to happen where my children or somebody else’s children live. I think it’s a disservice for Holocaust survivors to make the comparison.”
Rosenberg, who over the years has been vocal about anti-Semitism, terrorism, and his own disputes with various institutions — from Rutgers University to Yeshiva University to the Metuchen-Edison Area Interfaith Clergy Association — said he has spoken with someone in the Trump campaign. He would only identify the representative as the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, who said an official from Trump’s camp would be getting back to him.
Rosenberg said he “completely disagreed” with a letter signed by 1,000 rabbis several weeks ago asking that compassion be shown toward the refugees. The letter invoked the memory of Jewish refugees aboard the St. Louis being turned away from U.S. shores during the Holocaust.
“The truth is my parents had to go through all sorts of checks and be sponsored,” he said. “They had to have jobs. I know more about being a refugee than many of these rabbis. Once the FBI has a mechanism for vetting [Syrians], then I will support these people who are legitimate refugees. My issue is not that I’m against saving the lives of Syrian refugees. I am concerned with saving the lives of Americans.”
Rosenberg’s “Rabbis for Trump” Facebook page, launched Dec. 8, and after several days, only had about five rabbis — none from New Jersey. On Dec. 15, Rosenberg renamed the page “Rabbi for Trump,” opening it up to the general community. The page has 502 page “likes.”
He downplayed reports that Trump’s campaign is attracting white supremacists.
“My retort to that is that he has grandchildren who are Jewish,” said Rosenberg, referring to the children of daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, real estate mogul Jared Kushner. “He has a Sabbath-observant daughter, so there is no way he is anti-Semitic and no way is he Hitler.”