Despite being boycotted by key liberal Jewish organizations, President Donald Trump attempted to reach out to American Jews on Friday with a conference call to express wishes for the upcoming High Holy Days.
The annual conference call, a tradition instituted by President Barack Obama to mark Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, has typically drawn leaders from across American Jewish denominations. This year, the weeks leading up to the call exposed a fracture between liberal American Jews who are critical of the president, and their more conservative counterparts who are interested in keeping a line of communication open with the White House.
Leaders in the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements boycotted the virtual meeting, citing the president’s initialclaim that neo-Nazis and their counterprotestors were both responsible for the violence that erupted at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August. The White House reportedly ended up leaving some of the liberal Jewish organizations off the invitation list.
Representatives from several Orthodox-leaning organizations were invited to participate and decided to call in ― including leaders from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Agudath Israel of America, the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, the Republican Jewish Coalition, and other groups.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told HuffPost that he participated in the conference call around 8 a.m. Pacific time on Friday morning, and that it lasted between six to eight minutes. Unlike the Obama-era High Holy Day calls, Hier said that there was no Q & A session during Trump’s call.
Hier said that overall, the president spent time giving High Holy Day greetings to the group and reaffirming a strong commitment to Israel.
“He condemned anti-Semitism in the strongest terms and basically said that America is a stronger country because of its vibrant Jewish community,” Hier, who delivered a blessing at Trump’s inauguration, told HuffPost.
Hier said he was told that there were Holocaust survivors on the call as well. The president reportedly thanked these survivors for telling their stories and confronting evil in the world.
Nathan Diament, executive director of the public policy arm of the Orthodox Union, echoed Hier’s comments about the content of the call, saying that the…