Ramaz School: Rabbi Lookstein -- You May Speak for Trump, But Not in Our Name

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We, the undersigned, are outraged that Rabbi Haskel Lookstein – rabbi emeritus of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and the Ramaz School – has decided to lend his blessing to Donald Trump and speak at the Republican National Convention.

Donald Trump openly spouts racist, misogynistic rhetoric; he advocates torture, the expulsion of millions of families, some long settled in America, and insinuates that some citizens of this great country are somehow less than others.

To embrace Trump and Trumpism goes against all we’ve been taught. As graduates of Ramaz, and as current or former members of the Modern Orthodox community, this is a shanda beyond the pale. 

Trump’s re-tweeting of anti-Semitic and white nationalist imagery is not an accident; it’s a dog whistle.  So too is his refusal to attend the NAACP convention – something every other Republican candidate in recent years has managed to do.  Trump’s callous attacks on our fellow citizens, embrace of violent rhetoric, his encouragement to supporters to beat up protesters – all these should be red flags, chillul hashems in their own right.  But somehow, Rabbi Lookstein, none of this has deterred you from speaking in Cleveland. 

When Donald Trump was asked about David Duke, Trump said he didn’t know anything about the guy.  When a Jewish reporter wrote an article about Trump’s wife, white nationalists sent her death threats and Photoshopped pictures of her at Auschwtiz. Wolf Blitzer asked Trump point blank to condemn the threats; Donald Trump just shrugged.

Rabbi Lookstein,  do you also shrug in the face of virulent, violent anti-Semitism? Do you also believe that ten million Mexicans should be deported? Do you really want your grandchildren to grow up in a racist fantasia in which we will somehow construct “the wall”? 

Rabbi Lookstein, all the good work you’ve done in your life – everything you’ve done for your community, for the plight of Soviet Jews – will be flushed down the toilet for ten minutes on stage in Cleveland.  This is the single action history will remember you by, and history will not be kind.

It’s a truism, but first they came for the Mexicans, and I said nothing.  Then for the Muslims, and I was silent.  Even if you are only looking out for what you believe is the self-interest of your community, you should know that Jews are never far behind on this list – that the world is a better place when we care about our fellow citizens and practice tolerance and celebrate difference. 

This is beyond politics, not a question of left or right, but a question of human decency -- and you have decided to embrace and politicize hate. Not in our name. Today we are ashamed to be Ramaz graduates.

Please reconsider your public support of this dangerous man -- the future of our country, not to mention your own legacy, is at stake.

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