A group of progressive Jewish leaders has a message for President Donald Trump in the wake of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue over the weekend that left 11 people dead: Stay away until you fully denounce white nationalism and stop targeting minorities, immigrants, and refugees.
Eleven members of the Pittsburgh affiliate of Bend the Arc, a national organization for progressive Jews, penned an open letter to Trump on Sunday calling Saturday’s shooting, believed to be the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in United States history, the “direct culmination” of the president’s influence.
“For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement,” they wrote.
On Saturday, a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue, killing 11 people and injuring six others, including four police officers. He has been charged with 29 federal crimes, including hate crimes, in addition to 36 local charges.
In his social media posts, the assailant made frequent anti-Semitic posts and said he believed Jews were at fault for helping transport members of the migrant caravans from Central America, which Trump has been stoking fears about for weeks. (He believed Trump was a “globalist” and surrounded by too many Jewish people.)
Trump tweeted that the shooting was “evil” and an “assault on humanity” and called for ending anti-Semitism and uniting to conquer hate. He also said he would travel to Pittsburgh. But local Jewish leaders aren’t buying it.
The most powerful parts of the letter to Trump asking him to stay away are four lines written in bold, interspersed throughout the letter:
Thus far, more than 20,000 people have signed on to the letter.
“We feel like there have been multiple communities under attack in the United States from the vitriol that the president has been spreading,” Josh Friedman, one of the leaders of Bend the Arc’s Pittsburgh chapter, told the Washington Post. “It was the Jewish community’s turn. Blowback from his words came and cost people’s lives, and we said enough is enough.”
Bend the Arc is a progressive group and partisan organization; part of its mission is to hold politicians accountable if they “enable the immoral agenda of the Trump administration and the Republican Party.” Not all Jewish leaders in Pittsburgh agree with its push to keep Trump away. A Tree of Life rabbi said more than once on television on Monday that Trump was welcome to visit.
Trump has a tough time rising to the occasion in situations like these
The disturbing violence of the past week, including the arrest of a Florida man for sending pipe bombs to 13 prominent Democrats and critics of the president, the shooting of two black people by a white man in a Kentucky grocery store in what appears to be a racially motivated attack, and the Pittsburgh shooting have put fresh scrutiny on President Trump’s rhetoric.
They’ve led to questions about whether his divisiveness has played a role in encouraging violence or exacerbating divisions. (Questions that many Republicans aren’t interested in answering.) While Trump forcefully condemned Saturday’s shooting and anti-Semitism, in 2017, he offered a waffling response to racist violence caused by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Trump’s response to the pipe bomb incidents left something to be desired, and he has struggled to rise to the occasion in steering the country through turmoil, seemingly recognizing what a typical president should do but at times failing to act accordingly. He told reporters on Friday, before the Pittsburgh tragedy, he could “really tone it up” if he wanted.
Bend the Arc’s leaders disagree. “You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday’s violence is the direct culmination of your influence,” they wrote.