As Administration Reels From Drama, Trump to Hold Rosh Hashana Call With Jewish Leaders

Two prominent Reform leaders tell Haaretz they were not invited to participate or consulted about the call, a tradition started by Obama

Donald Trump hangs up following a phone conversation in the Oval Office of the White House, August 27, 2018.
Bloomberg

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump will conduct a conference call with rabbis and Jewish community leaders on Thursday to mark the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days period.

This year, two prominent Reform leaders told Haaretz they were not invited to participate or consulted about the call. 

The call, which became an annual tradition during the Obama years, will take place shortly after noon, Washington time. It is being organized solely by the White House, without the direct involvement of any leading Jewish organization, according to a source with knowledge of the administration’s work on the subject.

Invitations for the call went out last week, only six days before the event itself. During President Barack Obama's tenure, the event was usually organized with the assistance of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and the administration made sure to invite rabbis from all prominent Jewish streams, including many who were political critics of the 44th president.

Last year, Trump’s call with the Jewish leaders was boycotted by the vast majority of the Reform and Conservative leadership, and also by some Orthodox rabbis.

The call took place a month after the violent events in Charlottesville, VA, and Jewish leaders were angry over Trump’s reaction to those events, particularly his claim that there were “fine people” among the far-right, neo-Nazi demonstrators. 

The Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements published back then a joint statement declaring that “we have concluded that President Trump’s statements during and after the tragic events in Charlottesville are so lacking in moral leadership and empathy for the victims of racial and religious hatred that we cannot organize such a call this year.” As a result, the call included mainly political supporters of Trump from within the Orthodox community. 

During last year’s call, Trump was not the only speaker. His son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, also participated. The call was criticized for lasting under ten minutes and including no questions taken from the participants.

During the Obama years, the annual High Holy Days call usually lasted between 30 to 45 minutes, and included questions directed to the president.