We are writing this letter to ask that you reconsider your decision to speak at the Republican National Convention. As alumni of Ramaz and members of the larger Ramaz and Kehilat Jeshurun community, we’ve learned to treat every human, Jewish or not, with dignity and respect. The Ramaz mission states a commitment to menschlichkeit, Torah, mitzvot, chesed, the United States of America and our democratic values, and a responsibility to the Jewish people and all humankind.
We are proud members of your community, inspired by your dedication to these values as well as to kavod ha’adam - most recently standing with marginalized members of the Jewish people, in this case converts, in the face of “extremist tendencies” in the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. You also courageously modeled these values when you stood up for Soviet Jewry in the face of their oppressors, and countless other times.
Donald Trump stands for a set of values and positions that is antithetical to Ramaz and KJ’s core beliefs - those embodied by your leadership of our community:
He has proposed a ban on the entire Muslim religion from entering the United States, including refugees escaping war zones. He has further called for the registration of all American Muslims in this country. He has labeled all Mexicans criminals and rapists. These positions can only call to mind the persecution of Jews in Europe and Russia a generation ago.
Trump has consistently made statements that degrade women, for example, calling Megyn Kelly a “bimbo” and suggesting that her criticism could only be due to “blood coming out of her whatever.” You, on the other hand, have worked tirelessly to ensure that women feel valued in our community, using the bounds of halacha to include women at all levels of practice.
Donald Trump has refused to condemn a neo-nazi ad that was re-tweeted from his personal Twitter account. You may believe, based on personal knowledge or intuition, that he is not actually an anti-semite, or for that matter, xenophobic or sexist. But by voicing, giving voice to, and then refusing to condemn the most vile and blatant bigoted people and beliefs, Mr. Trump, as the possible future leader of the free world, takes a dangerous step in the slippery slope towards actual institutional bigotry. Rabbi Lookstein, we don’t know if you plan to endorse Donald Trump at the convention. We don’t know if you plan to verbally condone any of his policies, or even plan to promote messages of peace, equality and kavod ha’adam. But you are a public figure, one who represents the values of our community and the American Jewish community at large, even though you stepped down from your official institutional positions. Regardless of your intentions, your presence and speech at Donald Trump’s convention would be a powerful symbol and a tacit condonement of his dangerous and hateful platform.
Rabbi Lookstein, we urge you to use your powerful platform to promote the Ramaz values we hold so dear, rather than attending a celebration of a man whose policies fly in the face of what you have taught us.
Signed,Your students, congregants, and sincere admirers