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Election Watch 2016

40 Orthodox clergy condemn Trump’s ‘hateful rhetoric’

(JTA) – Forty American Orthodox clergy co-signed a letter condemning Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for what they called his “hateful rhetoric and intolerant policy proposals.” The letter – whose signatories included Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, the founding president of Clal-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership in New York City – was published last Friday on the website

Noting that “religion should be invoked with care” when addressing politics, the rabbis added, “Nevertheless, there are times when the political discourse veers into morally offensive language and policy proposals that violate fundamental religious norms.”

In the current presidential election campaign, they also wrote, “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.” Trump has called for banning Muslims from entering the United States and later, in remarks made in the context of the fight against radical Islam, for “extreme vetting” of immigrants.

Trump attracted outrage after lashing out at Muslim American parents whose son died while serving in the U.S. military in Iraq. After the soldier’s father criticized Trump at the Democratic National Convention in July, Trump lashed back by suggesting, among other things, that the boy’s mother “wasn’t allowed” to speak, presumably by her Muslim husband. In a reference to this incident, the rabbis wrote: “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.”

The signers tend to represent institutions on the religiously liberal side of modern Orthodoxy. Other signers include Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, founder of the liberal Orthodox group Uri L’Tzedek; Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, of Ohev Sholom: The National Synagogue in Washington, D.C; Rabbi Jeffrey S. Fox, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Maharat, a seminary for Orthodox women; and Rabba Sara Hurwitz, the former rosh beit midrash at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan.

Separately, Trump apologized on Thursday for past remarks that “may have caused personal pain” as he sought to refocus his message in the face of falling poll numbers.


Clinton campaign attacks Breitbart News as ‘antisemitic’

“Maybe you heard about the time they attacked an opponent – a conservative Republican, no less – by calling him a ‘renegade Jew,’” said a fundraising letter sent out August 18 from Christina Reynolds, the Democratic nominee’s deputy communications director, referring to Breitbart News. “They’re a different breed altogether – not just conservative but radical, bigoted, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic conspiracy peddlers who never have been and never should be anywhere near the levers of power in this country,” the letter said.

Stephen Bannon, Breitbart’s executive chairman, joined Trump’s team this week in one of several recent staff shake-ups aimed at closing the Republican nominee’s polling gap with Clinton.

The site recently described William Kristol, the editor of the influential Weekly Standard, as a “renegade Jew” because of his fierce opposition to Trump’s bid for the presidency. The intent appeared to be to suggest that Kristol cared too little about the Jews, not too much. The writer, David Horowitz, argued that Kristol’s opposition to Trump would pave the way for a Clinton victory, which he said would “weaken the only party that stands between the Jews and their annihilation.” The phrase “renegade Jew” appears only in the headline.

Kristol has said he was offended by the characterization.

Breitbart News, in a statement posted after Clinton’s campaign manager made similar accusations in a conference call, dismissed the charges of antisemitism and other bigotries as character assassination. “They say that we are ‘anti-Semitic,’ though our company was founded by Jews, is largely staffed by Jews, and has an entire section (Breitbart Jerusalem) dedicated to reporting on and defending the Jewish state of Israel,” according to the statement. The site’s founder, the late Andrew Breitbart, was raised Jewish.

“I’m glad I’ve become a journalist because I want to fight on behalf of the Israeli people,” Breitbart told a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in 2011.


Trump foreign policy adviser fights antisemitism allegations

( A top foreign policy adviser to Republican nominee Donald Trump is fighting back against accusations that he made anti-Semitic remarks about the Holocaust while serving at the Pentagon during President George W. Bush’s administration.

Joseph Schmitz is one of five foreign policy advisers picked by the Trump campaign earlier this year. When Schmitz served as inspector general of the Department of Defense during the Bush administration, he had allegedly boasted that one of his successes was in “firing the Jews,” according to complaint records obtained by McClatchy. Schmitz also allegedly lectured an employee “on the details of concentration camps and how the ovens were too small to kill six million Jews,” wrote Daniel Meyer, who once oversaw whistleblower cases at the Pentagon, in his complaint against Schmitz. Meyer is one of three former colleagues claiming Schmitz openly offended several minority groups. However, Schmitz said in an interview that the “allegations are completely false and defamatory.”

“I do not recall ever even hearing of any ‘allegations of antisemitism against [me],’ which would be preposterously false and defamatory because, among other reason(s), I am quite proud of the Jewish heritage of my wife of 38 years,” he wrote in an email statement. He later clarified that his wife’s maternal grandmother was Jewish.


Tim Kaine visits Touro Synagogue

(JTA) – Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine visited the historic Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, 226 years to the day after its leader read a letter to George Washington praising the new country’s support for religious liberty. Kaine, on a campaign swing, wrote on his Facebook page Wednesday that “we stumbled on” the site, a landmark known as the country’s oldest synagogue.

When Washington visited Newport on August 18, 1790, among the dignitaries greeting him was Moses Seixas, the “warden” of the Touro congregation, who read a letter of welcome praising America’s embrace of religious liberty. In his post, Kaine quoted an excerpt from the letter Washington wrote in response to Seixas, affirming his commitment to freedom of religion for all Americans. Kaine quoted a portion of the Washington letter, which asserts that “the Government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

Kaine also used the occasion to take a shot at the Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump, writing that today, “we’re facing a presidential candidate who has no conception of religious liberty – or civil liberty for that matter. Millions of Americans – not just Jews, but Muslims, LGBT Americans, those with disabilities – worry about their place in society and what Donald Trump’s divisive words mean for them.”

The Newport building, completed in 1763, is a national historic site and attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year.


Jeb Bush’s son visits Israel

(JTA) – The son of ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush led a group of Texas businessmen on a three-day visit to Israel, then wrote that “America has no better ally and no truer friend in the world.” George P. Bush, the land commissioner in Texas, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his trip last week to discuss Texas-Israel partnerships on issues including technology and desalinization, according to The Associated Press. Bush “expressed his strong support for Israel” and thanked the prime minister “for all he is doing to fight terrorism,” his spokesman  J.R. Hernandez told the AP. It was the first overseas trip for Bush – the grandson of President George H.W. Bush and nephew of President George W. Bush – since being elected land commissioner last year. The trip was not announced prior to his departure.

Along with his lauding the Israel-U.S. alliance, Bush wrote on the Texas General Land Office website: “After spending several days meeting with political and business leaders in Israel, this much is clear to me: the most important thing we can do for Israel is do business with Israel. And I am committed to helping foster a climate of trade, investment, and sharing of best practices. What I saw in Israel was a great spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation, like that of Texas. And I think that Texas is the perfect partner for Israeli business. Above all, I want to do everything I can to bring Texans and Israelis closer together. We share common values, common ideals and, yes, common enemies.”

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