“We are deeply troubled by the moral equivalency and equivocation President Trump has offered in his response to this act of violence [in Charlottesville].”The rabbi who sponsored Ivanka Trump’s conversion to Judaism has fiercely criticized Donald Trump’s defense of neo-Nazis and other white supremacists.
The president’s response to the white nationalists’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend has outraged Republicans and Democrats alike. Trump on Tuesday blamed “both sides” for the deadly violence that unfolded in the city. And he doubled down on his defense of white supremacists who marched through the University of Virginia’s campus and chanted Nazi slogans including “Jews will not replace us.”
In a joint letter sent to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s former congregation in New York City Wednesday evening, Rabbi Emeritus Haskel Lookstein and two other rabbis criticized Trump’s reaction to the Charlottesville events, which resulted in an anti-racist protester being killed by a car. James Alex Fields Jr., 20, from Ohio, has been charged with offenses including second-degree murder.
“On the day of the funeral of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman who was murdered by a vicious, white supremacist, neo-Nazi, we are all shaken by this human tragedy and all the horrible scenes from last Saturday’s riot in Charlottesville and the frightening message and fallout that have consumed us since then,” states the letter, signed by Lookstein and fellow Rabbis Chaim Steinmetz and Elie Weinstock.
The letter continues, “While we always avoid politics, we are deeply troubled by the moral equivalency and equivocation President Trump has offered in his response to this act of violence.”
Trump insisted that the counterprotesters demonstrating against the white supremacists’ anti-Semitic and racist behavior were also to blame for events that occurred. (Though on Thursday he tried to walk back his earlier comments, claiming he never “said there is a moral equivalency between” the white supremacists and the anti-fascists protesters.)
The president also falsely argued that the counter-protesters did not have a permit, while the white supremacists and neo-Nazis were legally permitted to demonstrate.
While the letter was sent to families within the community, the Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side also chose to post the statement on its Facebook page.
Lookstein had sponsored Ivanka Trump’s orthodox conversion to Judaism before her 2009 wedding to Kushner. Since the blatant displays of anti-Semitism in Charlottesville, critics have demanded to know why Trump did not immediately, unequivocally and repeatedly denounce the neo-Nazis that demonstrated in the city, considering his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren are Jewish.
Critics also want to know why Ivanka Trump has not spoken out more against the anti-Semitic behavior displayed over the weekend. Following Heyer’s death on Saturday, the first daughter condemned white supremacists more harshly than her father, but she has been silent on the issue since tweeting a message on Sunday. The New York Times reported Tuesday that she and Kushner were on vacation in Vermont.
In Vice News’ documentary on the Charlottesville rally, white nationalist shock jock Christopher Cantwell chastised Trump for “giving his daughter to a Jew.”
“I don’t think you can feel about race the way I do and watch that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl,” the self-proclaimed fascist said.