Trump to hold High Holidays call with rabbis
President Donald Trump will hold a pre-High Holidays conference call on Friday with Synagogue Rabbis and Jewish leaders despite a boycott from rabbis who belong to the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist movements.
“In commemoration of the Jewish High Holy Days, President Donald J. Trump would like to invite you to a conference call where he will send well wishes for the upcoming holidays and discuss his administration’s progress on issues of interest to the Jewish community,” the email invitation, obtained by Jewish Insider, reads. “We hope that you will accept our invitation to join this exciting call as the Jewish people welcome 5778 and reflect on the past year.” This was first reported by Maggie Haberman, a reporter for the New York Times.
The tradition started during the 2008 presidential campaign. It became an annual practice, with the participation of several hundred rabbis and Jewish leaders, during Barack Obama’s presidency. While the call was billed as a non-partisan briefing, President Obama often used the call to pitch and seek support for his administration’s domestic and foreign policy decisions, such as Obamacare, Middle East peace, and the Iran nuclear deal. In George W. Bush’s administration, similar conference calls took place but usually with a broad range of Jewish leaders and senior administration officials, according to an official who helped organize the briefings.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, Trump’s inauguration rabbi who criticized the President over his response to the Charlottesville protests, confirmed to Jewish Insider that he was invited to participate on the call. Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan who oversaw Ivanka Trump’s conversion to Judaism, did not receive an invite. “But if I were, I would dial in, out of respect for the President of the US,” Lookstein told Jewish Insider in an email.
Graham Roth, Communications Director for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said the initial boycott decided upon following Trump’s remarks on the Charlottesville protest still stands. “Our position has not changed. Reform rabbis, along with Reconstructionist and Conservative rabbis, decided to forgo hosting the annual High Holiday call with the President this year,” he said. “This was not a decision made lightly, but the President’s lack of moral leadership in the wake of Charlottesville made it necessary.”