NEW YORK — Rabbi Marvin Hier, who offered a prayer at Donald Trump’s inauguration, has strongly criticized the president for blaming both sides for the violence that erupted during a far-right protest in Charlottesville, which left one counter-demonstrator dead and dozens wounded.
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“The president of the United States has an obligation not to equate the other demonstrators with Nazis and Klansmen who want an America without Jews, without African-Americans and without Latinos,” Hier told Haaretz on Sunday.
“It’s quite unbelievable that some 75 years after the defeat of Nazism, Nazis along with the Klan are marching in the main streets of America against citizens. You can’t equate that with other demonstrators,” he said, referring to Trump’s remarks last week in which he said people “on many sides” were responsible for the violence at the Unite the Right rally in the Virginia city.
Hier is the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its affiliated Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. He is also founder of the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, which is expected to open in January 2019.
In January, the rabbi defended his decision to offer a prayer at Trump’s inauguration, telling Haaretz that “it’s a great honor, but even before that, it’s my duty to attend the event.”
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, the Orthodox rabbi in New York who oversaw the conversion to Judaism of Ivanka Trump, backed out of offering a blessing at the Republican convention after an outpouring of protest from members of Congregation Kehillath Jeshurun, where Lookstein is the rabbi emeritus, and from graduates of the Ramaz School, where he is the principal.
Hier said that in his remarks after Charlottesville “the president should never have equated the two” sides of demonstrators.
The rabbi seemed to hold out hope that the president might backtrack from his earlier statements, which have triggered a torrent of criticism.
Mentioning the rally that Trump is slated to hold Tuesday evening in Phoenix, Hier said that “when he goes to Arizona I hope he makes a definitive statement” about his remarks equating the anti-Semitic and racist protesters with those who were there to counter the hate.