WASHINGTON — American Jewish groups on Monday lambasted Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigration to the United States, with the Anti-Defamation League condemning the remarks as “deeply offensive.”
Trump’s comments raised a furor across a wide swath of the American population — with critics ranging from GOP rival Jeb Bush to President Barack Obama — for advocating a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt echoed comments made by a White House spokesperson, calling Trump’s plan “unacceptable and antithetical to American values.”
“The US was founded as a place of refuge for those fleeing religious persecution, and religious pluralism is core to our national identity,” he said. “A plan that singles out Muslims and denies them entry to the US based on their religion is deeply offensive and runs contrary to our nation’s deepest values.”
Trump’s comments, Greenblatt suggested, were particularly problematic for some Jewish Americans.
“In the Jewish community, we know all too well what can happen when a particular religious group is singled out for stereotyping and scapegoating,” Greenblatt wrote in a statement Monday evening. “We also know that this country must not give into fear by turning its back on its fundamental values, even at a time of great crisis. As we have said so many times, to do otherwise signals to the terrorists that they are winning the battle against democracy and freedom.”
As a 501c3-category nonprofit organization, the ADL is forbidden from taking a position on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for office.
The American Jewish Committee — also an avowedly nonpartisan organization — also condemned “in the strongest terms” what it called the “latest offensive and inflammatory comments from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.”
“As Americans, who just observed a holiday remembering the Pilgrims who fled religious persecution in Europe to found a new home on these shores, we find Mr. Trump’s call abhorrent and wrong,” said AJC Associate Executive Director for Policy Jason Isaacson.
He said the “nativist racism inherent in the candidate’s latest remarks” was disturbing for Jews.
“You don’t need to go back to the Hanukkah story to see the horrific results of religious persecution; religious stereotyping of this sort has been tried often, inevitably with disastrous results,” he said.
“Yes, this country faces the very real threat of radical Islamist terror,” Isaacson said. “We cannot, however, fall into the trap of blaming and banning an entire religious group, who overwhelmingly reject the violence and extremism of Islamist terrorists.”
Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said in a statement that while the movement takes no stance on Trump’s run for the White House, it condemned his remarks.
“As Jews who too often suffered persecution because of our faith, we cannot abide religious bigotry,” Pesner said in a statement. “Our nation, founded by those fleeing religious persecution, is rooted in principles of religious freedom. The absence of religious tests for entry or for office and the freedom of every individual to practice their religion are sources of national strength, not weakness.”
Rabbi Jack Moline, director of the Interfaith Alliance, did not explicitly call out Trump, but did issue a statement Monday in which he warned that “a country that discriminates against individuals on the basis of their faith would be a poor excuse for America.”
“Rooting our nation’s immigration policy in religious bigotry and discrimination will not make America great again,” he said, alluding to Trump’s campaign slogan.
Trump has kept the ADL watchdog organization busy since he entered the Republican presidential primary race in June.
Last week, the ADL responded to Trump’s critics — Republican and Democrat alike – who accused him of engaging in anti-Semitic rhetoric during the Republican Jewish Coalition’s candidates’ forum.
The ADL defended Trump, calling on him to clarify his intent in comments in which he seemed to imply that Jews are inherently negotiators and preoccupied with money, but asserting that given the context, his comments were not anti-Semitic.
In past cases, however, the ADL has openly criticized Trump.
In July, the ADL condemned what it deemed “hate speech against immigrants,” with then-national director Abraham Foxman blasting Trump’s rhetoric in which the real estate developer described immigrants as “killers and rapists.”
Deeming Trump’s remarks “offensive,” Foxman said that it was “time for Trump to stop spreading misinformation and hatred against immigrants, legal and illegal.”
Last month, after Trump suggested that the US should maintain databases tracking Muslims in America, the ADL described Trump’s proposal as “deeply troubling and reminiscent of darker days in American history when others were singled out for scapegoating.”
“Such a proposal is not only inimical to our cherished civil liberties, but it also wildly misses the goal of finding a rational balance between civil liberties and the security measures necessary to protect those liberties,” the organization wrote in a statement issued in late November.