After the USA elected its new President, the Board of Deputies put out a statement congratulating the victor, Donald Trump, but noting that there was much to do after a divisive campaign, including building bridges and ensuring that America’s standing as a beacon of progress, tolerance and free thinking remains strong.
Following the statement some community members, notably including young Deputies and community leaders, wrote to us to express their concerns about the statement on the basis of some of the inflammatory rhetoric used by Mr Trump in the campaign. We have subsequently responded to their concerns in a letter.
The debate about how to mark challenging events beyond our control is in the best traditions of our organisation and our community and whilst there may be disagreement, the intervention, particularly by future leaders, speaks well for the dynamism, conviction and energy of our community.
We paste our response and the letter below:
Response from the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush
Thanks to you and colleagues for your considered letter.
Our community and our organisation thrive on robust debate and accountability, and so I am glad to have this opportunity to respond.
In this case, I doubt that there is much disagreement on the substantive concerns about some of Mr Trump’s divisive rhetoric during the campaign. Indeed I have publicly raised this myself, for example in this article in the leading American Jewish publication Forward.
I suspect, therefore, that our only disagreement lies in whether it was right for the Board of Deputies to issue this statement.
The Board of Deputies is regularly asked for comment on matters of interest or concern to Jews in the UK and around the world. The United States of America has the largest Jewish community in the diaspora, and the country’s policy has an incalculable influence on Jewish concerns around the world, not least Israel.
As such we have a strong interest in the country’s affairs and are in regular contact with the US Embassy, US officials and sister Jewish organisations in the country, and we comment on significant matters affecting the community, including elections.
It is in that spirit that, just as the Prime Minister, world leaders and our counterparts at the American Jewish Committee have done, we have congratulated Donald Trump, the democratic choice of the American people. But, in contrast to many such statements which were exclusively congratulatory, we linked it to our explicit concerns that I have consistently voiced over the past months.
We understand why people feel strongly about this and particularly after what, for many, will have been a disappointing night.
We have been clear throughout the election regarding our concerns about some of Donald Trump’s comments. Those concerns remain, particularly over those comments which are considered to be racist and sexist. Consequently, our statement spoke in clear terms of a divisive campaign and ensuring that America remains a beacon of progress, tolerance and free-thinking.
But it is important to remember that, ultimately, we do not elect the US President. That is down to the American people. All we can do is respond to their choice. And that response has to respect the democratic choice of the American people as expressed through their electoral system.
I would be grateful if you would pass this message on to the other signatories.
With best regards
Letter from young British Jews regarding the statement made by Board of Deputies regarding Donald Trump’s election win:
9th November 2016
Dear Mr Jonathan Arkush,
As young British Jews we are deeply concerned by the decision made by the Board of Deputies to ‘congratulate’ Donald Trump on winning the US Presidential election.
Over the course of the campaign, Mr Trump has demonstrated overt prejudice against, women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities in a manner which betrays the common decency that our faith demands. In particular we would like to show solidarity with the Muslim community of America who now fear the kind of attacks and discrimination that has defined our own community’s history of marginalisation. The notion that Mr Trump will become a ‘beacon of tolerance’ for America or the global stage is frankly laughable. Further we are also concerned about the message it sends to the LGBTQ+ members of the Jewish community, particularly as Trump’s running mate and soon-to-be vice-President Mike Pence previously advocated conversion therapy and opposed steps towards greater equality. We do not welcome the ascendancy of Donald Trump and Mike Pence. We urge the Board of Deputies to retract their congratulations and show their support to American communities that have been targeted with Trump’s incendiary rhetoric throughout this campaign.
It is beneath contempt to congratulate a candidate who was censured by the ADL for using anti-Semitic tropes, who has enabled mainstream anti-Semitic abuse and who has secured the endorsement of the KKK and other white supremacists. This message of congratulations is contrary to our community’s best interests and is an affront to our ancestors and contemporaries who have stood against racism and fascism in all its forms.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said that ‘Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.’ We request that the Board consider how concerning their vote of congratulations is to young British Jews and retract their statement. In doing so, we hope the Board reflects on Jewish ethics of tolerance, empathy and compassion.
Emily Hilton, JLM Member
Nathan Feldman, JLM Member
Jay Stoll, JLM National Executive Member
Joseph Grabiner, RSY-Netzer Movement Worker, JLM Member, Zionist Youth Council Member
Amos Schonfield, BoD Deputy, JLM Member
Amy Bentham, JLM Member
Rebecca Filer, JLM Bristol Labour Member Co-Chair
Aaron Simons, Oxford University Jewish Society President 2015
Conor McGurran, JLM Member
Hannah Rose UJS Deputy
Tom Francies, former LJY Netzer Movement Worker
Yoni Stone, JLM Member, Oxford University Jewish Society President (2015-16)
Liron Velleman, JLM Youth and Students Officer, BoD Deputy
Kate Cohen, JLM Member
Anya Metzer, JLM Member
Noah Libson, Noam Madrich
Harry Kelly, University of York and Noam Boger
Ethan Axelrod, University of Cambridge and Noam Boger
Luke Wagner, Durham University and Noam Boger
Benjamin Carr, UJS Deputy
Darren Cohen, Habonim Dror Boger and British Oleh
Jess Lishak, JLM Member
Ben Lewis BoD, Deputy for RSY-Netzer and JLM Member
Rhea Wolfson, JLM Member, Labour NEC
Jonathon Leader, JLM Member, Ex BoD Deputy Habonim Dror
Ethan Schwartz, JLM Member
Jessica Goldstone, JLM North West Committee
Noa Krikler, Habonim Dror Bogeret
Gabriel Webber, BoD Executive Committee
Ella Cohen, former Noam Movement Worker
Hannah Kashman, Noam Movement Worker, Marom Fieldworker and Zionist Youth Council Member
Henry Hatwell, University of Oxford
Ella Rose, Deputy for Bushey United Synagogue
Jacob Inerfield, Former Habonim Dror movement worker
Samuel Gaus, JLM Member
Joel Hart, University of Oxford
Samantha Lee, Movement Worker, Habonim Dror
Dr Rebecca Steinfeld, former President University of Edinburgh Jewish Society
Will Cohen, former AJ6 Movement Worker
Sam K Freeman
Yosef Tarshish (Joe Tarsh), Chairperson World Union of Jewish Students, UJS President 2013-14
Hannah Brady, ex BoD Deputy UJS, UJS President, 2015-2016
Vitale Stone, Noam Madricha
Charley Katan, JLM Member
Talya Finke, JLM Member, ex BoD Deputy for Habonim Dror
Rachel Rose, Brighton & Sussex Jsoc Committee
Josh Newmark, Durham University
Talia Gellman, Habonim Dror Movement Worker
Baruch Schlomo Gluck
Kathryn Rose, St Andrews Jsoc President
Andrew Williams, St Andrews Jsoc Vice President
Emma Livingston, JLM Member
Ben Van der Velde
Brianna Sommer, Edinburgh Jsoc President
Dani Jacobson, Cambridge Jsoc President
Elana Kaymer, Durham Jsoc Executive Member
Guy Pollack, Mazkir, Noam Masorti Youth, Zionist Youth Council Member
Keith Kahn Harris
Ayala Gottleib Alter