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US Orthodox Jewish groups reject Trump call to bar Muslims

Prominent organizations say discrimination goes against country’s founding principles of religious, personal freedoms

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the National Federation of Republican Assemblies on Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP/Mark Humphrey)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the National Federation of Republican Assemblies on Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP/Mark Humphrey)

WASHINGTON — Two prominent modern Orthodox Jewish groups issued a joint statement rejecting Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

Unlike the range of other groups that have condemned the call by the Republican presidential candidate, the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America did not name Trump or mention Muslims specifically in their statement.

Instead, the two organizations said they “reject calls to limit immigration to the United States based on religion.”

“We call on all Americans to reaffirm that discrimination of any group solely upon religion is wrong and anathema to the great traditions of religious and personal freedoms upon which this country was founded,” O.U. Executive Vice President Allen Fagin said in the statement.

RCA President Rabbi Shalom Baum said threats of terrorism are real and need to be addressed, but “in sober and responsible ways.”

The statement quoted Natan Sharansky, a former prisoner of the Soviet gulag and now the chairman of the Jewish Agency, who said of Trump’s call: “We should not permit ourselves to turn our legitimate fears and threats and challenges of terror into hatred of the other, into dismissing whole national or religious groups of people.”

Trump issued his call after last week’s massacre in San Bernardino, California, carried out by a couple who had become militant Islamists. Fourteen people were killed and 21 wounded.

Numerous other Jewish groups have rejected Trump’s call, including the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee.

However, the umbrella group for the Jewish community on foreign policy matters, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, has declined to issue a response to Trump’s call. The umbrella group did not respond to inquiries from JTA.

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