Nineteen Washington-area rabbis and cantors are among nearly 700 Jewish clergy who have signed an online pledge to hold President-elect Donald Trump’s administration accountable for protecting the human rights and civil liberties of all people.
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights is circulating the pledge, which was posted on the group’s website three weeks ago.
“As rabbis and cantors, we fervently pledge to raise our voices, and those of our communities, to hold the new administration accountable for protecting the human rights and civil liberties of all people as precious creations in the divine image,” the pledge reads.
“Jewish history has taught us that fascism arrives slowly, through the steady erosion of liberties. And we have learned that those who attack other minorities will eventually come to attack us. To our great dismay, we learned this truth again when, during this election campaign, anti-Semitism rose to the fore, along with racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, and homophobia.”
Rabbi Rachel Gartner, co-chair of the board of T’ruah and director of Jewish life at Georgetown University, said: “Make no mistake, silence is sanction and apathy or accommodation is assistance.”
She added, “As Jews who are well versed in how cancers like bigoted rhetoric metastasize quickly into repressive policies, and way worse. What could be more important” than to hold Trump’s administration accountable?
Cantor Rosalie Boxt, of Temple Emanuel in Kensington, said T’ruah’s petition is one of several she’s signed to voice her concern about the incoming administration.
“A real concern [is] the country being able to stay focused on the principles our country was founded on, which were equal rights and dignity and respect for all people,” she said. “Signing the petition was a part of my desire to add my name to that. I will continue to speak out against hate and discrimination and injustice for people of all groups, whether it is sexual orientations, religion or people of color.”
Rabbi Adam Rosenwasser, of Temple Sinai in Washington, said he signed the petition because he is concerned about Trump’s controversial statements being accepted as normal.
“I think we have to take Trump at his word. The words he’s used are hateful and he’s expressed disdain toward the disabled, minorities, Muslims, women and immigrants,” he said. “The comments he made during the campaign were unacceptable. I see them as deeply offensive and incongruent with Jewish values. I think we need to take a stand and oppose them at every turn.”
Cantor Susan Bortnick, Washington Hebrew Congregation, said “I think any time there’s a positive way to be vocal about the fact that we all need to treat each other civilly, it’s important to do that.”
The petition criticized Jewish organizations that offered early congratulations to Trump and others who “have accommodated him by looking beyond” his rhetoric.
“For some Jewish leaders, there will be a temptation to accommodate the new administration in the hopes of protecting our own community’s ‘interests,’” the pledge says. “As Joseph learned long ago, and as the Jewish community has learned time and time again, proximity to power does not guarantee protection in the long run. Nor can we ignore the fact that our Jewish community includes people of color, immigrants, women, LGBTQ people, people dependent on the social safety net, and others at risk for reasons beyond Jewish identity. Jews will not be safe until every one of us is safe in a just and democratic society.”
Other greater Washington clergy who signed the petition include: Rabbi Elizabeth Richman, Jews United for Justice; Cantor Laura Croen, Temple Sinai in Washington; Rabbis Fred Scherlinder Dobb and Julie Gordon, Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda; Rabbi Sandra Rubenstein, Montgomery Hospice; Rabbah Arlene Berger, Olney Kehila; Rabbi Alana Suskin, Americans for Peace Now; Rabbi Esther Lederman, Union for Reform Judaism.
Also: Rabbi Sid Schwarz, Clal: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership; Rabbi Arnold Saltzman, Hevrat Shalom and Sha’are Shalom; Rabbi Sarah Meytin, B’nai Shalom of Olney; Rabbi Gerald Serotta, Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington; Rabbi Jessica Lott, Hillel International, Rabbi David Shneyer, Am Kolel Jewish Renewal Community and Rabbi Charles Feinberg, Interfaith Action for Human Rights.
JTA News and Features contributed to this article.