This week, I was honored to be one of the leaders of a movement to protest Donald Trump at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington D.C. Our protest, which called on those in attendance to walk out of the room when the Republican presidential frontrunner was to speak, joined the actions and letters of protest from many other groups, including those in the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox movements, as well as the Anti-Defamation League and interfaith clergy groups from California to Boston.
Our collective voices were raised to denounce the hatred and vitriol that has become all too commonplace in this year's campaign season. We stood together to say that there is no place for xenophobia, bigotry, racism and violence in our democracy and especially at our AIPAC conference. We felt, and still do feel, that Mr. Trump has played a far too significant role in spreading this hatred and has contributed to the ugliness that has engulfed our democratic process of choosing a new president.
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When Trump took the stage at AIPAC, thousands stayed in the room to hear him speak, receiving him warmly with applause. Some have pointed to this as evidence that our protest efforts failed; that we didn't achieve our goal. This is absolutely not true.
Our protest movement sent a strong message. Hundreds of people either stayed out of the auditorium or left it during Donald Trump's speech. We gathered in groups all over the Verizon center and studied, sang and prayed for an end to hatred, vitriol and negativity. We spoke of love and respect. We talked about seeing all people as created in the image of God. And millions of people heard our message on television, in print and on the Web.
From the beginning, we have been clear. For nine months we have listened to Donald Trump attack women, the disabled, Mexicans, Muslims and anyone who is "other." Since June, we have listened to Mr. Trump encourage his supporters to "knock the hell" out of protesters offering to pay their legal fees and suggest that he’d like to “punch (a protester) in the face.” We have listened to him disparage his fellow Republican candidates, denigrate the Democratic candidates, belittle the press and deprecate all who disagree with him.
We have listened for long enough. That Mr. Trump was warmly received at AIPAC has made it even more urgent for us to come together against hate. We must stand on the shoulders of those who built our beloved country based on values born out of our sacred scriptures. We must come together as people of faith and say, "Mr. Trump – you do not speak for us; you do not represent us and we will not let your bigotry, xenophobia, misogyny, racism and hatred go unanswered anymore."
And our message must resonate beyond Donald Trump to all who have been swept up by his rhetoric. We must face our friends and colleagues who don't see or don't want to speak out about the danger that Donald Trump poses. We must remind them that we believe in the democratic process: that this isn’t a political battle; it is a struggle for common decency and goodness. We stand for something much bigger than any one candidate. We come together for civility, for respect and for love.
In the coming days and weeks, our movement will decide how we can continue to spread this message. As Jews, we have a biblical responsibility to act as a beacon to the world by speaking out about our values. As a rabbi, I have a responsibility to teach that there are some things that are right and some things that are wrong. Hate and fear-mongering are wrong and have no place in a democratic society.
David Paskin, or Rabbi David as he is known by his congregants, is an accomplished spiritual leader, singer/songwriter, entertainer and award-winning Jewish educator. For over 20 years, David has been serving the Jewish communities of Boston and Palm Beach. David considers himself to be an under-constructionist Jew, also growing and learning.