U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday condemned a shooting at a New Jersey kosher grocery in which six people were killed, vowing to "crush" anti-Semitism. Trump made the comments at a White House Hanukkah ceremony in which he signed an executive order threatening to cut federal assistance to colleges that fail to combat anti-Semitism.
Trump called upon evangelical Christian leader Robert Jeffress to speak, claiming he’s a “tremendous faith leader.”
Jeffress, who has long been a controversial fixture at the White House, thanked the president and called Trump “the most pro-faith president in history.”
Jeffress, who spoke at the U.S. Embassy opening in Jerusalem in 2018, made headlines as in 2010 he delivered a lecture in which he said: “During a 2010 lecture, Jeffress claimed, "God sends good people to Hell. Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism--not only do they lead people away from from God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in Hell."
At the time Mitt Romney said, “Jeffress says ‘you can’t be saved by being a Jew,’ and ‘Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.’ He’s said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.”
Also taking part in the ceremony were army veteran Oscar Stewart and border patrol agent Jonathan Morales, both of whom are credited with stopping a gunman who attacked a synagogue in San Diego in April.
Morales lit the Menorah at Wednesday's ceremony.
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Trump has sought to closely align himself with Israel, a move that appeals to many evangelical voters, too. He said Wednesday that the order sends a message to universities: “If you want to accept the tremendous amount of federal dollars that you get every year, you must reject anti-Semitism. It’s very simple,” Trump said.
Under the order, the Department of Education will consider the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism — which can include criticism of Israel — when evaluating discrimination complaints under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The department could withhold funding from schools that it finds in violation of Title VI.
“My executive order prohibits federal funding to any college or university that spreads, promotes, tolerates or supports anything having to do with anti-Semitism,” Trump said.
The order comes as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the Israeli government for its treatment of Palestinians becomes more prominent on some college campuses.
The Israeli government has urged allies to rein in the boycott movement, while its backers deny anti-Semitism charges and describe themselves as critical of Israeli decision-making, not Jews.
Reuters and the Associated Press have contributed to this report