Rabbi Lookstein Withdraws From GOP Convention
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, also known as Ivanka Trump’s rabbi, has withdrawn from delivering the invocation at the Republican National Convention’s kickoff event next week amid a backlash by members of his modern Orthodox community in New York.
Lookstein’s appearance was made public on Wednesday as a list of slated speakers at the convention in Cleveland was leaked to the media by the Trump campaign.
A petition circulated by Ramaz students and graduates called on Lookstein to pull out of the convention. “Donald Trump openly spouts racist, misogynistic rhetoric; he advocates torture, the expulsion of millions of families, some long settled in America, and insinuates that some citizens of this great country are somehow less than others,” the petition read. “To embrace Trump and Trumpism goes against all we’ve been taught. As graduates of Ramaz, and as current or former members of the Modern Orthodox community, this is a shanda [embarrassment] beyond the pale.”
“Rabbi Lookstein, all the good work you’ve done in your life – everything you’ve done for your community, for the plight of Soviet Jews – will be flushed down the toilet for ten minutes on stage in Cleveland… Please reconsider your public support of this dangerous man — the future of our country, not to mention your own legacy, is at stake.”
The petition garnered 827 signatures.
“When Ivanka Trump, a member of our congregation, invited me to deliver the opening prayer at the Republican National Convention next Monday, I made a personal decision to honor her request out of respect for her and our relationship,” Lookstein wrote in a letter to members of his community on Friday. “Unfortunately, when my name appeared on a list of speakers at the convention, without the context of the invocation I had been invited to present, the whole matter turned from rabbinic to political, something which was never intended. In the interest of bringing our community together, I have asked to be relieved of my commitment to deliver the invocation. My request has been honored with the same love and respect in which it was first offered and intended.”
Lookstein also released the text of what he said were prepared remarks for the invocation at the Republican convention.
Read the text of the prayer below:
רבי חנינה סגן הכהנים אומר:
Rabbi Chanina, the Deputy High Priest said:
“הוי מתפלל בשלומה של מלכות”
“Pray for the welfare of the government,
“שאלמלא מוראה איש את רעהו חיים בלעו”
“For were it not for respect for it, people would swallow one another alive.”
“We thank you for this blessed nation that for 240 years has translated into reality the Biblical command to “proclaim liberty throughout the land for all the inhabitants thereof.”
“We thank you for our constitutional government that has created and fostered the American ideals of democracy, freedom, justice and equality for all, regardless of race, religion or national origin.
“Almighty God: We know that we are living in very dangerous times, when all of these blessings are threatened from without, by forces of terror and unimaginable brutality, and from within, by those who sow the seeds of bigotry, hatred and violence, putting our lives and our way of life at risk.
“And so we pray, Dear God: Help us to form a government which will protect us with sound strategy and steady strength; which will unite us with words of wisdom and acts of compassion; and which will thereby bring peace and harmony, safety and well-being to our beloved America and to all of humankind, and let us all say, Amen.”