The Washington-area rabbis whose full-page newspaper ad advised President-elect Donald Trump — though not by name — to examine his “campaign rhetoric and the hate crimes it may have unleashed” say they were not attacking Trump, but rather inviting him to change course.
The ad in the Jan. 10 Express, a subway giveaway newspaper published by The Washington Post, urged Trump to “reconsider” the rhetoric he used during the campaign season and work to create an inclusive community.
“We expect that, first and foremost, your victory in this election prompts you to revisit your campaign rhetoric and the hate crimes it may have unleashed — even unwittingly — and reframe your agenda to include the voices of ALL the people residing within this great and pluralistic country,” said the ad, whose 58 signers represented several Jewish religious streams.
The ad does not attribute the rhetoric to Trump or name him directly, a decision Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt said was intentional.
“We didn’t want to use this as an attack. We wanted to use it as an invitation,” said Holtzblatt, one of several rabbis who initiated the ad.” Holtzblatt is rabbi of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington. She and other signers said they signed the ad as individuals and not as representatives of any congregation or organization. “We wanted to give the administration a chance to double down and make a community for all people who live here.”
But the ad described the 2016 election as “marred by a disproportionate level of public vitriol and ridicule.”
The rabbis addressed communities that they said Trump’s campaign had made vulnerable, saying, “We are with you. We will not abandon you.”
Rabbi Hannah Spiro, of Hill Havurah, said those vulnerable communities include low-income individuals, LGBTQ people, people of color, refugees and Muslims.
“We understand that elections have consequences,” the ad said. “But we also must recognize that these consequences, should the campaign rhetoric be acted upon, could very likely cultivate a particularly precarious time for the vulnerable among us.”
Asked what action the rabbis would take to protect these communities, Spiro said: “I want to wait to hear from people who feel that their voices need to be heard. I want to hear what they need from us.”
Rabbi Elizabeth Richman, of Jews United for Justice, said the obligation to care for vulnerable individuals and strive for human dignity are Jewish values and “they have deep political implications.”
“The president-elect and many of his appointees have actively flouted those Jewish values. As a rabbi and a religious Jew, I feel religiously obligated to respond,” said Richman.
The ad also said that “potential government appointments … if realized, can roll back some of society’s victories for cherished human dignity.”
Rabbis interviewed for this story declined to name those potential appointees or departments.
Rabbi Rachel Ackerman, of Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, said she signed the advertisement because “it speaks to what I have seen in my community, and because signing my name is one more way for me to not only personally hold myself accountable, but to let others know they can hold me accountable as well.”
JTA News and Features contributed to this article.