US Jewish groups urge healing national rift after Trump win
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US Jewish groups urge healing national rift after Trump win

GOP candidate fails to garner significant Jewish support; many groups slow to comment, others congratulate victor and call for unity

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

A supporter of Donald Trump with pins bearing his name in Hebrew, outside the Trump Tower in New York City, USA, on November 8, 2016. (Noam Revkin FentonFlash90)
A supporter of Donald Trump with pins bearing his name in Hebrew, outside the Trump Tower in New York City, USA, on November 8, 2016. (Noam Revkin FentonFlash90)

WASHINGTON — Many American Jewish organizations were slow Wednesday to offer full-throated congratulations to Republican President-elect Donald Trump, reflecting deep misgivings over the Republican candidate, who garnered only a small slice of the Jewish vote.

Those groups that did come forward stressed the need to restore national unity in the face of divisive politics and complimented Clinton on her work with the Jewish community.

American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris was the first leader of a not-explicitly-partisan organization to congratulate Trump early Wednesday morning.

“American democracy has spoken after a long and bitterly-fought campaign,” said Harris. “We wish President-elect Trump well, as he prepares to assume the highest position in the land and the most powerful political position on the planet. And we also extend our best wishes to Secretary Hillary Clinton for her many years of distinguished public service to our nation, the strong campaign she ran, and, I would add, her friendship to AJC.”

Harris called on Americans to come together following what he described as “an extraordinarily divisive contest.”

“The United States is one country with one destiny, and any expression of bigotry and exclusion, as we’ve regrettably seen during the extended campaign, must never be allowed to corrode our pluralistic fabric,” Harris added. “We wish President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence a successful Administration that, we earnestly hope, will take early steps to reach out to every American, including concerned minority communities across the land; reaffirm our links to our friends across the globe; and, in the months and years to come, advance peace, security and prosperity for our nation and the world.”

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations also called for steps to “bind the wounds of division” after a long and bruising campaign, while also congratulating Trump.

Commending Clinton “on her hard-fought campaign and extend our deepest gratitude for her lifelong accomplishments in public service on behalf of the American people,” the group’s leaders said that they “look forward to working with President-elect Trump and his advisers in the transition before his inauguration and in the years to come during his presidency on the issues facing our country, as well as of specific concern to the American Jewish community including strengthening the special US-Israel relationship, the rise of anti-Semitism and the security of the Jewish people at home and abroad.”

Malcolm Hoenlein (right) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo credit: Uri Lenz/FLASH90)
Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Uri Lenz/FLASH90)

Only one of the US’s major Jewish denominations offered any response by late in the morning. The leadership of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – issued a statement saying the group “congratulates Donald Trump upon his historic election as the 45th President of the United States and Mike Pence upon being elected Vice President,” as well as voicing “its appreciation to Hillary Clinton for her years of service to the American people.”

According to recent polls of the US Jewish community, Orthodox Jews are more likely to vote Republican than members of the other Jewish denominations. Trump campaigned heavily in Orthodox communities, a strategy that may have paid some dividends in contested states like Florida.

Like the AJC, the Orthodox Union also spoke to the need to address a divided American populace. “Now that the hard-fought campaign has ended, we look forward to working with other Americans to heal the divisions in American society and work to support policies that will move our country forward,” the organization wrote.

President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with supporters after giving his acceptance speech during his election night rally, Wednesday, November 9, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/John Locher)
President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with supporters after giving his acceptance speech during his election night rally, Wednesday, November 9, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The same theme was addressed by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. Congratulating Trump in a statement, the group also “urge(d) him to continue to work toward bringing the country together.”

“The American people have spoken, and as our great democratic tradition dictates, it’s time for a peaceful transition of power,” JCPA Chairwoman Cheryl Fishbein wrote in the statement.

Trump’s campaign, dogged by charges of anti-Semitism, led to low Jewish support, with an exit poll showing 74 percent of Jewish voters backing Clinton and only 18% voting for Trump, according to The New York Times, a lower figure than Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney in the last two elections.

The handful of organizations to offer their congratulations Wednesday morning were far from the majority of Jewish groups.

As Clinton’s numbers declined Tuesday evening, silence descended on many Jewish organizations. The Anti-Defamation League, which had criticized anti-Semitic innuendo within Trump’s camp, only issued a response Wednesday afternoon.

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, speaking at the ADL Annual Meeting in Los Angeles on November 6, 2014. (Courtesy ADL)
Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League. (Courtesy ADL)

ADL National Chair Marvin D. Nathan and CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt congratulated Trump and his running mate, Vice President-elect Mike Pence on their victory, adding that the results demonstrate “American democracy at work.”

At the same time, the statement added the warning that “democracy is more than simply what occurs at the ballot box or during a particular election. Democracy encompasses the full collection of our laws, our norms and institutions that enshrine and protect our freedoms. That work begins today to reinvigorate the idealism of e Pluribus Unum and to ensure that America remains a land of economic opportunity and personal freedom for all people regardless of their gender, race, class, faith, ethnicity, sexual orientation or political preference.”

The statement seemed pointed toward Trump’s history of disparaging comments toward members of ethnic and religious minorities as well as Pence’s support for a controversial Indiana law which critics complained would legalize discrimination toward LGBT consumers.

The organization specifically cited Mr. Trump’s pledge in his victory speech early Wednesday morning that he will be president “for all Americans.”

Some left-leaning Jewish activist groups saw Clinton’s electoral defeat as a call to arms.

T’ruah’s Rabbi Jill Jacobs wrote that “this morning, many of us woke up with deep fear about the future of our country, and about the safety of those of us who are Jewish, people of color, immigrants, women, LGBTW, Muslims and other minorities.”

Quoting from Psalms, Jacobs told supporters that “our tradition teaches that there is a time for mourning, and a time for moving forward.”

While she acknowledged that “today, we sit with our fear and pain,” she added that “tomorrow , we will need your partnership even more than ever, as we move forward with the sacred task of protecting the human rights of all people.”

HIAS, a Jewish group that works for the benefit of refugees, did not congratulate Trump, but instead called on him to reconsider his hard-line stance on refugees and immigration.

“As a bitter and hard-fought campaign for president comes to an end, so should the divisive rhetoric about refugees. America has always been at its greatest when it has welcomed refugees to our shores, and at our weakest when we have shut its doors out of fear,” wrote HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield in a statement. “We urge President-elect Trump to demonstrate that America is not afraid of refugees, and to show leadership for human rights and refugee protection during the global refugee crisis, the largest of its kind since the World War II.”

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