February 21, 2019

Rabbis Denounce Trump Tweets at Interfaith Event

Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders used a Dec. 1 press conference at the Islamic Center of Southern California to denounce President Donald Trump for tweeting videos purporting to show Muslims engaging in acts of violence and breaking a statue of the Virgin Mary.

“I speak to you today as a rabbi and as a Jew,” said IKAR Rabbi Sharon Brous. “My people know all too well the dangers of fascist regimes that rise to power through stigmatization and the scapegoating of vulnerable minority populations. We will not shrug this off as yet another reckless act from a reckless administration.”

Brous was one of three Jewish clergy members to participate in the press conference. Beth Shir Shalom Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels and Wilshire Boulevard Temple Rabbi Susan Goldberg — who said she was representing herself and not her congregation — also were among the 10 interfaith leaders at the event. The conference took place as a handful of Muslim worshippers were busy with prayer on the first floor of the mosque.

“The hatred that was spewed out by the president earlier this week can only be combated with this kind of love,” Comess-Daniels said.

On Nov. 29, Trump retweeted three videos that had been shared by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the far-right group Britain First. A day later, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the president’s tweets to reporters who questioned the legitimacy of the videos.

“I think his [Trump’s] goal is to promote strong borders and strong national security. … Whether it is a real video, the threat is real, and that is what the president is talking about, that is what the president is focused on, dealing with those real threats, and those are real no matter how you look at it,” she said.

Critics of the tweets have said Trump was sharing the videos without offering any context for the content in the videos, fomenting hate against Muslims and spreading propaganda of a hate organization.

“And now, just like after Charlottesville here in the United States, a hate group that has operated on the fringes of society has been promoted and given credibility by the president of the United States of America,” Brous said. “We must not downplay the recklessness and the danger of this act.”

At the Islamic Center, Goldberg expressed the importance of the Jewish community standing with the Muslim community at this time.

“As a Jewish person, there is no question where we need to be right now. We need to be standing with our Muslim sisters and brothers, and comforting you and letting you know that there is so much care and love and protection for you,” she said.

Also participating in the Los Angeles press conference were Bishop Steve Gilliland, director of Muslim relations at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council; Daniel Tamm, the Westside area representative of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; Islamic Center of Southern California chairwoman Hedab Tarifi; and Islamic Center spokesman Omar Ricci.

“We will not shrug this off as yet another reckless act from a reckless administration.” — Rabbi Sharon Brous

“It is a sad day when European leaders are teaching the American president about tolerance,” Al-Marayati said, referring to British Prime Minster Theresa May, who criticized Trump for sharing content tweeted by Britain Frist.

Tarifi said she was let down by the president’s polarizing leadership.

“For us to get together to condemn our own president is really very painful,” she said.

Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, pushed back against critics of Trump’s tweets.

“The president’s critics seem more concerned about Trump than they do the biggest danger the world is facing: the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism,” Klein said in an email. “Pew polls show that one-third of Muslims under 35 support violence to defend Islam. That frightening ideology must be fought — not Trump’s tweets.”