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Rabbis Boycott Trump After Charlottesville Remarks

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Each day, the fallout continues from President Trump's statements about both sides contributing to the racial violence in Charlottesville. So far, around 20 charities have pulled out of events at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Business leaders have resigned from White House advisory boards. And just yesterday, rabbinical groups representing the majority of American Jews said they wouldn't hold their annual conference call with the president before next month's high holy days.

SHAPIRO: Rabbi Steve Fox is also the chief executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. He says his group already had issues with Trump on immigration and LGBT rights. Then the president tepidly denounced neo-Nazis and white supremacists last week.

STEVE FOX: This was the straw that broke the camel's back. What has happened is deeply hurtful not just to the Jewish community but to other minority communities, to others in our country when the president doesn't stand up and take that kind of public moral leadership.

SIEGEL: Rabbi Elyse Wechterman is the executive director of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association. She says her group also had problems with Trump before signing onto the joint statement.

ELYSE WECHTERMAN: We very much see this as an opportunity to have a sense that the Jewish community of the United States is part and parcel of this country, that the elected leadership of our country cares about us as you would about any American. And that would mean having our back at times of distress. And we don't have that sense at the moment.

SHAPIRO: President Trump's supporters point out that his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, are Jewish, as are several others in his inner-circle at the White House. Trump said this in February to a reporter for a Jewish news site.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism - the least racist person.

SIEGEL: Rabbi Fox says those are just words.

FOX: I think that I can't see what's in his heart. And certainly the high holiday call and the time of the holy days is a chance to reflect upon what's in our hearts and to see if our actions match our own self-perception of who we are and what we do. And I think what I would say in this case to the president is that his actions don't match those words.

SHAPIRO: Wechterman wants to make clear this is not a total boycott of President Trump.

WECHTERMAN: And were he to reach out with us for help understanding the degree to which this level of anti-Semitism has affected our community, I think we would be very open to hearing that.

SIEGEL: Is she optimistic that will actually happen?

WECHTERMAN: Not very, but it is the season of repentance in our tradition, and one can always hope that people see a different way of being in the future.

SIEGEL: That's not likely to be in the near-future. The Jewish newspaper The Forward reports President Trump wasn't interested in joining the rabbi's call in the first place. A spokesman says Trump plans to create his own traditions. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.