Why I will skip Donald Trump’s speech to AIPAC

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Credit: Joseph Sohm, via Shutterstock

Credit: Joseph Sohm, via Shutterstock

Donald Trump is slated to speak at the AIPAC Policy Conference Monday (March 21).

AIPAC is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Its mission: to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Israel. It works across all political, ethnic and religious lines. All the 2016 presidential candidates were invited to speak.

But, for many of the rabbis who will be attending AIPAC, Trump’s appearance poses political, moral, and even spiritual quandaries.

It is quite simple. Trump’s hateful rhetoric is abhorrent to a great many rabbis, for a variety of reasons. In particular, the Reform movement has eloquently spoken out on Trump.

So, since Trump is speaking at AIPAC, what should AIPAC-supporting rabbis “do” about that? Their responses run the gamut of political and ideological expression. And each of those responses has an interesting Jewish pedigree.

The first approach is what I would call the “Hoffman-Rubin” method — as in Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, the founders of the 1960s Yippies, entrepreneurs of ideologically-based mayhem.

The “Hoffman-Rubinists” advocate eitherhttp://www.snappytv.com/tc/1570655

  • Boycotting the AIPAC conference entirely
  • Staging a loud, public walkout on Trump’s speech
  • Standing up and turning their backs on Trump as he is speaking
  • Even playing up the calender coincidence between the Jewish festival of Purim and the AIPAC conference by branding Trump as Haman, the despotic, genocidal villain of the book of Esther, and even talking about waving graggers (noise makers) when he speaks.
Rabbi Jeff Salkin explains to Trevor Noah of The Daily Show why he helped organize fellow rabbis to skip Donald Trump's March 21 speech to AIPAC.

Rabbi Jeff Salkin explains to Trevor Noah of The Daily Show why he helped organize fellow rabbis to skip Donald Trump’s March 21 speech to AIPAC. http://www.snappytv.com/tc/1570655

Because the AIPAC Conference is arguably the most-attended “Jewish” gathering of any given year (approximately 20,000 people — of whom a respectable number are not, in fact, Jewish), there are major concerns that Trump’s appearance reflects poorly on both Jews and Israel.

I hope that there will be no aggressive responses to Trump’s appearance. Such actions would violate AIPAC’s hospitality; guarantee that the protesters will be forcibly ejected from the hall, and would give Donald Trump extra ammunition. This is someone who has no qualms speaking crudely about women, Mexicans, Muslims, the handicapped, and immigrants; does anyone really want to add “rabbis” to his verbal hit list?

The second approach is what I would call the “Esther-Mordecai method,” which is appropriate because of the connection to Purim.

The Jew Mordecai relished his relationship with the Persian court, going so far as to tell Queen Esther that providence had put her in the palace precisely so that she could save her people from destruction at the hands of Haman.

Some rabbis say that Jews have to face the political facts. In all likelihood, Trump will become the Republican nominee for President. He could beat Hillary Clinton, and become the next president of the United States.

Therefore, Jews in general, and AIPAC in particular, must cultivate a good working relationship with this president, as they would with any occupant of the White House.

In some ways, the true Jewish archetype of this approach is the shtadlan, who in medieval Europe was the official intercessor for the Jews with the authorities. He would work as a “lobbyist,” negotiating for the safety and benefit of the Jews. The shtadlan’s role ultimately evolved into its modern-day equivalent — the alphabet soup of Jewish defense organizations (ADL, AJC, AIPAC, etc).

Implicit in this dynamic is the notion that the Jews are always vulnerable; they need friends in high places; relationships with power must always be negotiated afresh, lest Jewish vulnerabilities be exposed.

The third approach is what I would call the “Abraham Joshua Heschel” approach. This is the approach that I, and many of my colleagues, are taking.

We have been urging rabbis to simply not attend the Trump speech — to let our absence be felt and noted.

Yes, AIPAC must be hospitable to Trump, but that does not mean that AIPAC participants are hospitable to the candidate’s ideas and candidacy.

Why Abraham Joshua Heschel?

Heschel, the great theologian and social activist, was engaged with many mainstream Jewish organizations in the 1960s and 1970s. Even when he disagreed with them, he never walked away from any of them. He stuck by them and with them, speaking truth to power.

There is a second reason why we would call this the “Heschel approach.”

When Heschel marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, he quipped that he was “praying with his feet.” His most sacred principles compelled him to march.

The rabbis who absent themselves from Trump’s speech will pray with their feet.

America finds itself in a very difficult time. We have to do something.

A story: a righteous man came to the wicked city of Sodom, and pleaded with the people to change their ways. No one listened. Finally, he sat in the middle of the city and simply screamed.

Someone asked him: “Do you think that will change anyone?’ ‘

“No,” he said. “But at least, they will not change me.’”

Sometimes, you just have to scream — even silently.

  • Trump is a revolutionary, meaning his candidacy has thrived on destroying the shibboleths, the Zeitgeist, the house of cards that is the “establishment.” Part of this is a feeling of benevolence towards Jews — but this is complex and partly a false image of the devout Jew, follower of the religion of Christ (another iconoclast)

    Antisemitism is as easily evoked as hatred towards any outsiders, as it was for Trump to proclaim that “Muslims (all of them implied) hate America” Yes, now he says he loves Jews and Israel — but given the anger and general low grade xenophobia of his most avid fans, He could burst this bubble. He might even divulge that most reform Jews are probably atheist-agnostic if you really challenge them.

    Here’s a link to an article about Sanders, where you can jump to a Pew Research study that shows this, if you read it carefully:

    http://alrodbell.blogspot.com/2016/02/bernie-sanders-candidacy-as-secular-jew.html

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  • Susan

    Tom,
    Well, how can we live in peace in America, or at least by your definition of peace, when people like you want there to be no Jews in America? You have a theology of contempt towards Judaism and Jews throughout history. If any Jew would accept Jesus as their savior they would no longer be Jewish. There is more than one Jewish prayer that says, “but for you, God, we have no savior.

    I happen to believe that God wants us to help ourselves. A Jewish state was necessary to protect Jews. German Jews thought they were Germans first. They found out that other Germans did not think so. America “our promised land”, did not save Jews from the Holocaust. The US government even turned back a boat full of Jewish children. The wife of the Secretary of State said, “They are cute now, because they are children, but they will grow up to be ugly Jews. Don’t try to tell me that a Jewish state does not need to exist.

  • Ken Notis

    For AIPAC supporters to approve the shtadlones approach would be deeply ironic, since shtadlones was historically a term of abuse used by Zionists in the early 20th century. And of course makes America, a democracy with full Jewish political participation, sound like a medieval feudal state.

    I am also not clear how “Standing up and turning their backs on Trump as he is speaking” would lead to being ejected from the hall. Alternatively they could stand up and quietly walk out. I think such an action would be a more visible rejection of Trump than not attending at all, but would also be a very visible alternative to protests that seek to silence or disrupt.

  • Susan

    Jews don’t need Jesus to become fulfilled. Yes, that does mean that you hate Jews and Judaism if you think so. You want a planet with no Jews on it. You want a spiritual genocide. If you think that you can be Jewish and accept Jesus as your savior, you are wrong. Jews don’t believe in a personal savior. The Messiah is supposed to save the Jews and the whole world.

    Jews are still waiting for the Messiah to come. So of course there is no third gathering in the Hebrew Bible.

    By the way, only Jews from Eastern Europe eat knishes. That just shows how ignorant you are about Jews.

    Why do people like you take over ever comments section with your hateful proselytizing? Why do you always say were going to Hell, but we love you? I don’t buy it. s

    You seem to have forgotten or never knew how much antisemitism there was in this country. America has been good for Jews compared to nearly any other country, but it is not the promised land. Things didn’t even start to change until…

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  • Susan

    So-called Christian Zionists want a Jewish state with no Jews in it. They are not Zionists. I never suggested that the Holy Land is only for Jews. Modern Zionism was a secular movement. The Bible does not say that a Jewish state is forbidden. You have completely ignored mine and Garson’s reason why a Jewish state is necessary.

  • Debbo

    Thanks for a thoughtful article, Rabbi Selkin. As a white American of English and American Indian decent, I feel compelled to apologize for the ignorantime and boorish, if not hateful comments by “Tom”. He and his Christianist cohort are a small, but loud and embarrassing derivitive of Christianity.

  • Debbo

    BTW, I favor standing up and silently walking out.

  • Debbo

    Tom, are you familiar with Autocorrect?

    You have no business commenting about my heritage or how I should feel.

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  • Susan

    Please give examples of laws that restrict Christians. You were the one who used the expression “Christian Zionists.” It doesn’t matter if they know what Zionism is or not. They still want to convert Jews.

    A minuscule amount of the US budget goes to foreign aid to all countries, including aid to Israel. It wouldn’t effect the budget one way or the other. You just don’t want money to go to Israel.

  • F Callen

    Trump will be good for America and therefore good for Israel and all the rest of America’s natural allies. Yes, there will be upheaval along the way but in case you haven’t noticed we are living in a time of great upheaval, a time of clearing out the old order. Put your faith in Hashem and don’t worry about Donald – or whoever else gets elected – Hashem knows what is for the best.

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  • Susan

    That is not Israel. That is the occupied territories. They are not the same thing. It is obscene that you are comparing Pakistan, for example, to Israel where a person who does not follow Mohammed can be shot dead in the streets or to Saudi Arabia where it is illegal to be a Christian.

    It seems to me that Israel is very generous to Christians who want to reduce the number of Jews to zero. It is the Christians who are trying to buy the Israeli government.

    hat

  • Steven Taitz

    That is the most beautiful response ever however most reform “Jews” idea of Shabbat is going out for a shrimp dinner and their love of Hashem and Israel is very debatable, I find it humorous how they allude to Trump being neutral which is a lie when many of these same liberal reform “Jews” want Israel to put their trust in Arafat type murderers.
    May we all put our faith in Hashem and not in man or prince.
    Am Yisrael Chai!
    Warm Regards
    Steven Taitz

  • Steven Taitz

    Agreed, the same people endorse murderers of Jews like the Clinton’s and
    they side with likes of Soros Chomsky and their ilk,
    After 3000 years how far have our people fallen…
    Hashem please have mercy on us we are a ungrateful stiff necked people not deserving of your love.
    remember the Golden calf which was built by the quickly converted who fled with the people of Israel.

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  • Garson Abuita

    Steven — you question other Jews’ halachic status, accuse people without proof of murder and associating with unsavory individuals, and we’re supposed to believe that you’re the holy one? Your hateful comments are a chillul Hashem.
    And while we’re at it, why are you on the Internet anyway? Don’t you know this place is littered with all kinds of shmutz that your yetzer hara will h”v tempt you into all kinds of aveiros? Please get off the computer and help your wife prepare for the holy Shabbos.
    p.s. F Callen: “there will be upheaval along the way but in case you haven’t noticed we are living in a time of great upheaval, a time of clearing out the old order”. Are these your words, or a quote from Mein Kampf?

  • Garson Abuita

    You don’t hate us, you just want all us to convert to Christianity, imply we’re in control of the US government, and seek to deny us the self-determination that every other ethnic group in the world is entitled to. But that’s just more “love,” right?
    RNS allows a lot of ridiculous comments, but mild profanity turns them off, so I’ll repeat myself: Get this through your thick skull, Tom. The Jews don’t need Christians’ permission to protect ourselves anymore. Your focus on US aid to Israel allows you to divert from the real issue: Israel exists because of people like you. Take your noxious theology elsewhere.

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  • Susan

    Show me the laws and the budgets to back up your statements. Also show me that Christian schools are harmless and well meaning towards Jews.

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  • Larry Linn

    Is David Duke and the other KKK members going to make an appearance to reinforce their support for Trump?

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  • Susan

    I think that when Trump comes to the podium, Jews who can should blast a shofar.

  • Jean

    As a person who was raised Catholic and grew up in Long Island, NY with many Jewish friends, I say Trump is using any group for his own end. Whatever you decide to do, please make your voices of dissent loud and clear for all people of faith. This is a time that we come together and stand up to bigotry and hatred.
    I want to share my recent experience after I found out I am 48% European Jewish from an Ancestry DNA test. I am adopted and knew that my birth father was Austrian. I was so proud and excited to tell everyone that I have Jewish ancestry. As I began to study the history of the Jews, to my horror, I realized that the Jewish people were treated like second class citizens and worse, in every region they lived. It is a miracle that the Jewish people have survived! When I proudly told my neighbor my story of having Jewish ancestry, I experience for the first time in my life discrimination when he told me, ” I would not go around saying that if I was you.” Stand up to hate,…

  • patrick Milo

    Yuo guys are making more of a stink over trump then they did over Hitler in the thirties.to bad you weren’t so sure of yourselves back then

  • Doc Anthony

    Let’s be honest. AIPAC has tolerated Barack Obama for EIGHT YEARS.

    And how has Obama dealt with Israel? Honestly? By undermining the security of the people of Israel, and cutting a deal with Iran that guarantees Israel with get hit with a missile — in all likelihood an ATOMIC bomb — within the next few years.

    And Hillary Clinton has publicly promised to “continue and protect Obama’s policies.”

    Yet you say that **Donald Trump** is the bad guy here? You say that AIPAC members should boycott HIM when he’s at least supportive instead of suspicious of Israel? Seriously?

    Remember this: If Hillary Clinton gets elected in 2016, it’s full speed ahead for Iran and its friends. It will be the opportunity of a lifetime for them, and they’re NOT going to pass it up.

  • Doc Anthony

    If American Jews allow Hillary Clinton to become President, all the shofars in the world aren’t going to do any good.

    Israel will simply be in trouble. Iranian atomic fireball trouble. Period.

    If you don’t want to see that happen, then it’s time to put somebody OTHER THAN Hillary Clinton in the White House. And there’s only one guy out there — Donald Trump — who can even slow down Hillary anymore.

    .

  • Mike B.

    There is no “Hate” associated with honest conversations and dialogue about Israel, Jews and Zionism. Conversation is necessary so others can understand the truthful origins of the problem.
    With that said, I do not understand a “People’ (Jews) who were so recently persecuted by the Second World War acting in a mirrored fashion when it comes to the Palestinians??? Why the indiscriminate killing of women and children as Hitler did in Germany and Poland??? Who should know better?
    What about this business of the Nuremberg Trials versus Operation Paper Clip? In fact, it wasn’t the Americans who were first to the Moon it was the Germans….Werner Von Braun. He was a Nazi. Why no prosecution as he oversaw the working to death of Jews at Penamunda?

  • Garson Abuita

    Probably because Byrd long before renounced his Klan membership and repented for it. So much so that the NAACP issued heartfelt condolences upon his death. But knowing stuff like that requires understanding history, not just repeating what someone else on the Internet said.

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  • Jean

    All people from different faiths must look into their own hearts and recognize that their own hatred and bigotry is simply wrong. When we look at our neighbors we should see ourselves and our own families in their faces. So, we know what is right and just and voting for someone who does not reflect our American values should not be elected. All families matter: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist….Wrong is wrong and right is right and we all know the difference in our hearts, maybe not in our minds.

  • Jack

    Tom, Christians have it better in Israel than in any other country in the Middle East. The only Christians who are against Israel in the region are nominal Christians who put their Arab or Palestinian identity ahead of their identity in Christ. And there is a word for that: idolatry. We are called to put Christ first, ahead of all other loyalties, including loyalty to nation or ethnicity.

  • Jack

    Trump gives every evidence of being a disaster waiting to happen for this nation and world. He has no moral or ethical qualities or temperamental traits that suggest fitness for leadership of the free world.

  • Jack

    Tom, why did your hero, Trump, suddenly get tough-tied when it came to condemning the KKK and Duke? Why did he pretend not to have heard of either Duke or white supremacism?

  • Jack

    Wrong, Doc. 42 of 49 polls show Trump losing to Hillary, while most polls show his two opponents, Cruz and Kasich, each beating Hillary.

    You and other supporters of Trump are making a colossal mistake in propping up the one GOP candidate who cannot beat Hillary.

  • Jack

    Doc, if you want to stop Hillary, why support the only one of three GOP candidates whom Hillary beats nearly every time in polls? Why not vote for Cruz or Kasich instead?

  • Jack

    Mike B, comparing Israeli behavior toward the Palestinians to the Nazi genocide against the Jews is worse than obscene. Where is there any evidence of Israeli genocide against anyone? Where are the mass graves or gas chambers? Where are the death camps? Where are even the hundreds of thousands, let alone millions, of dead Palestinians? Where is the evidence of slave labor and mass torture and human experimentation?

    If you don’t know anything about a subject, it’s usually best to keep quiet rather than making yourself look like a jackass or a bigot.

  • Jack

    It’s quite obvious that Tom knows nothing about Jews or Israel, and neither Tom nor Susan knows anything about Christians who support Israel.

    Maybe both Tom and Susan need to go to Israel and learn rather than spout folly.

  • Jack

    Wrong, Tom. You’re misreading the plain words of Scripture. The second regathering of the Jewish people to their land is depicted as worldwide, as Jews from the four corners of the earth, so to speak, returning. The Jews were not scattered worldwide until after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE/AD, 40 years AFTER Jesus, and 500 years AFTER your claim. The first regathering spoken of in the Bible was not under Moses but during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. The Jews leaving Egypt for Canaan is never called a regathering or anything synonymous to it. It sounds like you have bought into a cultish, bizarro interpretation of Scripture that is foreign both to Christians and Jews.

  • Jack

    Thanks, RNS, for removing my reply to the hateful post above by Tom. I guess you want theological anti-Semites to go unanswered by biblically literate pro-Israel posters. Way not to go.

  • Jack

    Tom, the Jews have a natural, common-sense right to return to the land of their ancestors who were forcibly exiled, and re-establish sovereignty there. They have done so over a miniscule percentage of the land they once had….yet you begrudge them even that. Shame on you.

    The burden of proof is on you to show how that natural right is contradicted by anything in the Bible. Good luck on that because no such prohibition exists. On the contrary, as I mentioned in a post that your RNS friends have since erased, Christ’s Second Coming (Rev. 19) presumes Jewish sovereignty over Israel and is triggered by an invasion of Israel by her enemies (Rev. 16). One of the effects to the Second Coming is to usher in a millennium of peace in the world, with the Jewish people vindicated and their capital, Jerusalem, the new world capital. I’ll be glad to debate you on any aspect of this, because all the textual evidence points away from your prejudices.

  • Jack

    So Tom says he doesn’t hate Jews…..Right….He just opposes the right of Jews to have what every other people on earth has — a right to sovereignty over their own land. Italians have a right to Italy, Chinese to China, French to France, Americans to America, but in TomWorld, Jews somehow don’t have a right to Israel.

    I know what we’ll do. Let’s go to Tom’s house and claim the right to it ourselves. Yes, he may have the literal deed to the land, but I say we should interpret it allegorically. I say that as fellow human beings, we have just as much right to Tom’s house as Tom does. We are not literalists, you know.

    So Tom, hand over your house.

  • Jack

    You’re both wrong. Susan, you’re spreading a canard about pro-Israel Christians. If you became more involved with Israel or AIPAC, you’d know better than that. Tom, put away your hatred of Jews, Judaism, and Zionism. We know plenty about Zionism and support it in terms of justice, mercy, and Scripture.

    And RNS, quit erasing my posts. Somebody should answer Tom theologically and biblically….A failure to respond gives the wrong impression that there is no response to give.

  • Jack

    The difference is that unfortunately, Europeans did come close to wiping out Native Americans, whereas the number of Israeli Arabs has at least tripled since 1948. As usual, Tom, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    And as far as land theft goes, one can’t steal one’s own land. Moreover, Jerusalem, for example, has had a majority Jewish population for at least 30 centuries, including even the past 20 centuries before Jewish sovereignty was re-established.

    Based on Tom’s logic, I think everyone on this board should drive Tom off his land, call it our own, and then when Tom’s descendants seek it, call them a bunch of land thieves.