Orthodox Rabbinic Statement Against Hateful Rhetoric and Principles


We the undersigned are a group of American Orthodox rabbis, speaking as individuals, who have come together—in solidarity with other religious leaders—to make this statement on a matter of grave religious import.

 

We believe that religion should be lived in daily life and applied in the public square and in making policy judgments. We also believe that religion should be invoked with care because its tendency to judge matters in absolute or ultimate terms may interfere with the ability of the political system to work through partial steps, compromises and pragmatic accommodations. We also affirm that it is improper to claim that God or our religion is totally on one side, be it progressive or conservative. We affirm that people of good faith can come to contradictory conclusions on policy matters.

 

Nevertheless, there are times when the political discourse veers into morally offensive language and policy proposals that violate fundamental religious norms. In such cases, we feel that we must speak up—and as Orthodox rabbis in particular—since we believe that every action in life should be shaped and guided by our religious values.

 

We issue this statement on the heels of the week of the 9th of Av. On the Jewish religious calendar, this commemorates the anniversary of the destruction of the Second Holy Temple and the Great Exile—the greatest catastrophe of Jewish history until the Holocaust. The Talmud states that this disaster was a direct consequence of the release of gratuitous and unrestrained hatred into the body politic.

 

In the current presidential election, we have been deeply troubled to hear proposals that condemn whole groups and which are justified by pointing to evil behaviors by members of that group or religion. Wholesale condemnations—such as the proposal to ban all Muslim immigration into the United States—violate the principle of individual responsibility and violate the fundamental religious principle of “love thy neighbor as thyself”, which is one of the greatest commandments of Judaism (see Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim 9:4). These proposals violate the biblical prohibitions to spread hatred or slander about groups and individuals and violate the oft-repeated biblical command to love the stranger.

 

We add that we were shocked by the disrespect shown to parents who suffered the greatest pain—losing a son who died in the service of our country. The Torah commands us always to comfort mourners. The fact that the parents criticized a candidate does not justify harsh and hurtful retaliation.

 

Similarly, we condemn the candidate’s remarks demeaning women, and we denounce his attacks labeling many Mexican immigrants as rapists or criminals. Again, opposition to immigration or to amnesty for illegal aliens cannot justify wholesale denials of the dignity of human beings or threats to round up and deport millions of families. These remarks and proposals are gross violations of the fundamental principle of our religion that every human being is created in the image of God and should be treated as equal, as unique, and as a person of infinite value and dignity.

 

Finally, we are troubled by candidates who signal authoritarian tendencies and pursue personal vendettas that come across as a dismissal of constitutional rights and legal processes. Protection of the law, equality before the law, and respecting democratic political processes (though they may fall into gridlock or frustrate us from time to time) are the bedrocks of democracy. Democracy is the system most protective of human dignity. Upholding it and protecting its processes is of the highest religious value. The fact that these dangerous tendencies have been coupled with statements of admiration for authoritarian dictators has aroused our conscience.

 

All these behaviors, taken together, have led us to make this extraordinary statement in the name of our religious principles. Our core religious values and essential theological beliefs require us to condemn Mr. Trump’s hateful rhetoric and intolerant policy proposals in the strongest possible terms.

 

 

  1. Rabbi Dr. Elisha Ancselovits
  2.  Rabbi Yonah Berman
  3. Rabbi Dr. Julia Watts Belser
  4. Rabbi Dr. Tsvi Blanchard
  5. Rabbi Meredith Cahn
  6. Rabbi Barry Dolinger
  7. Rabbi Michael Emerson
  8. Rabbi Steven Exler
  9. Rabbi Dr. Josh Feigelson
  10. Maharat Ruth Friedman
  11. Rabbi Jeffrey Fox
  12. Rabbi Aaron Frank
  13. Rabbi Daniel Geretz
  14. Rabbi Dr. Bin Goldman
  15. Rabbi Daniel Goodman
  16. Rabbi Ben Greenberg
  17. Rabbi Steve Greenberg
  18. Rabbi Dr. Yitz Greenberg
  19. Rabbi Ari Hart
  20. Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld
  21. Rabbi Dr. Richard Hidary
  22. Rabba Sara Hurwitz
  23. Rabbi David Jaffe
  24. Rabbi David Kalb
  25. Rabbi Will Keller
  26. Rabbi Fred Klein
  27. Rabbi Yaakov Komisar
  28. Rabbi Dr. Eugene Korn
  29. Rabbi Doniel Z. Kramer
  30. Rabbi Danny Landes
  31. Rabbi Dr. Dov Lerea
  32. Rabbi Aaron Levy
  33. Rabbi Jon Leener
  34. Rabbi Dov Linzer
  35. Rabbi Ariel Evan Mayse
  36. Rabbi Phil Miller
  37. Rabbi Avram Mlotek
  38. Rabbi Micah Odenheimer
  39. Rabbi Avi Orlow
  40. Rabbi Dani Passow
  41. Rabbi Aaron Potek
  42. Rabbi Haggai Resnikoff
  43. Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller
  44. Rabbi Ben Shefter
  45. Rabbi Aaron Shub
  46. Rabbi Garth Silberstein
  47. Rabbi Daniel Raphael Silverstein
  48. Rabbi Victor Urecki
  49. Rabbi Mark Urkowitz
  50. Rabbi Devin Villarreal
  51. Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz
  52. Rabbanit Devorah Zlochower

 

If you are an Orthodox rabbi and would like to add your name to this statement, please email: info@utzedek.org