Where is the Religious Response to Trump?
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Less than fifteen blocks away from Trump Tower where the President held his incendiary news conference yesterday once again suggesting a moral equivalency between the racists, neo-Nazis, White supremacists in Charlottesville and those protesting their demonstration, is St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the office of the New York Archdiocese of the Catholic Church. One might have expected that after the passivity and evasive strategies employed by the Vatican and most of the Catholic Church during the Nazi persecution of the Jews, it would have immediately spoken out as a voice of moral rectitude in the face of the President’s unwillingness to address directly the specific attacks on Jews—as well as on all non-White Christians. The U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference has been constant in addressing the hate and neo-Nazi activity, but so far New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan appears personally to have been absent.
In truth the Church need only look at the leading Orthodox congregational and rabbinic bodies whose public responses have been appallingly weak and generic. The reform and conservative bodies have been out front in their condemnations as now have many of the major Jewish communal organizations, although the Presidents’ Conference of Major Jewish Organizations appears also still to be considering how to condemn neo-Nazis attacks without offending Trump.
The Presidents’ Conference, like the Orthodox movements, appear be to totally lacking in courage to speak out in the face of what is a blatant willingness on the part of the President to condone and equate White supremacists and neo-Nazis with those protesting. Taking a page from the equally ethically compromised Israeli Prime Minister—who took three days as well to finally speak out against the neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic demonstrators—these orthodox rabbis and congregations appear to be unwilling to offend a President who is prepared to tolerate neo-Nazis.
One might ask as well why the U.S. Ambassador to Israel—whose has deep ties to the Jewish community—is able to sit in his embassy and not speak out? For how long can Sheldon Adelson continue to call Trump his friend and support him? Is Jared Kushner, who is a child of Holocaust survivors, unable to find a voice to protest blatant Jew hatred?
It is indeed scary to contemplate how rabbinic supporters of Trump will address their congregations during the forthcoming High Holidays in light of their silence. There is no moral leadership from the White House; indeed, there is actual encouragement of racism and tolerance of anti-Semitism. It seems that as America experiences the most transparent attacks against Jews in the streets of the country since the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, many clergy appear also to be unable to find their moral compass.