By I. Schwartz
A group of 50 high-profile Open Orthodox leaders, led by Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, released a joint public “rabbinic” condemnation of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump this past Erev Shabbos. (Readers may recall that Greenberg has previously compared the Christian deity to Avrohom Avinu and written that the Torah is no longer binding after the Holocaust, but he is viewed as an elder sage in Open Orthodoxy.)
In an article written by Greenberg and by Yeshivat Chovevei Torah graduate Daniel Goodman, posted on Cleveland.com and then reported by the Jewish Telegraph Agency and the Forward, among other media sites, the Open Orthodox clergy singled out and attacked Mr. Trump’s perceived attitudes toward Muslims, Mexicans and women, and wrote:
“(W)e are troubled by candidates who signal authoritarian tendencies and pursue personal vendettas that come across as a dismissal of constitutional rights and legal processes. Protection of the law, equality before the law, and respecting democratic political processes (though they may fall into gridlock or frustrate us from time to time) are the bedrocks of democracy. Democracy is the system most protective of human dignity. Upholding it and protecting its processes is of the highest religious value. The fact that these dangerous tendencies have been coupled with statements of admiration for authoritarian dictators has aroused our conscience.
“All these behaviors, taken together, have led us to make this extraordinary statement in the name of our religious principles. Our core religious values and essential theological beliefs require us to condemn Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric and intolerant policy proposals in the strongest possible terms.”
The open letter was signed by Dov Linzer and Jeffrey Fox, the roshei yeshiva of both Open Orthodox seminaries (YCT and Yeshivat Maharat, the latter of which ordains female clergy), as well as by “Rabba” Sara Hurwitz, dean of Yeshivat Maharat, Dr. Dov Lerea, mashgiach ruchani of YCT, and 46 other Open Orthodox leaders, including YCT rabbeim, several Open Orthodox female rabbis, and a man who advertises that he is an Orthodox rabbi who publicly adheres to a to’eivah lifestyle.
One of the signers of this open letter is Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, who is no stranger to fierce public attacks on Donald Trump. Herzfeld, who heads an Open Orthodox congregation in Washington, DC, with female clergy on staff, where women serve as chazzan, baal kriah, and even as makri for shofar-blowing on Rosh Hashanah, disruptively stormed into the aisle during Mr. Trump’s speech at the AIPAC convention earlier this year, wearing a tallis and screaming, “Wicked! Wicked! You’re wicked!” Security escorted the rabbi out the door. (Herzfeld’s interruption of the Trump speech came as Trump was talking about victims of terror.)
Herzeld advertised this escapade in the Washington Post, where, in an article titled Donald Trump is wicked. As a rabbi, I had to protest his AIPAC speech, he advertised his actions and wrote that he was following the example of Mordechai standing up to Haman Harasha, by standing up to the evil of Donald Trump. (Herzfeld’s latest antic was to take members of his shul to a to’eivah bar to show solidarity after the shooting at Orlando ‘s Pulse nightclub.)
Aside from the fact that Open Orthodox leaders are naturally quite liberal both politically and socially, there is their embrace of the media’s many distortions of Donald Trump’s words. Although Trump has apologized for statements that were seen as strident or harsh and has taken on a new tone in his rallies, it is also true that many of the things for which he has been criticized were clearly twisted quotes, with the media taking things out of context and putting words in his mouth. This sloppy and agenda-driven media tactic would seem to fit naturally with Open Orthodoxy, whose leaders are known for misquoting and misrepresenting Torah in order to arrive at a conclusion that meets their agenda. (Readers are directed to a few prime examples of this that were brought to the fore in the Dovid Lichtenstein Headlines interviews with YCT leaders and opponents, as advertised in the Yated. These interviews were unusually eye-opening, exposing the farce of Open Orthodoxy in the words of its very heads.)
The Open Orthodox clergy who publicly excoriated Donald Trump are so sure of their assessment of Trump that no one in his right mind can disagree and allege that “the rabbis are biased and wrong.” It is a sign of utmost hubris, as even though the tens of millions of Americans – if not more – who support Mr. Trump may look disfavorably on the “rabbinical” condemnation of Trump and may really resent the words of these Open Orthodox leaders, these leaders seem oblivious to this concern, as if all sane people must of course agree with their opinion.
It is interesting to note that despite Hillary Clinton’s bio, from her embrace of the wife of Yasser Arafat, to her surrounding herself with anti-Israeli advisors, to the way she battled with Binyomin Netanyahu in an attempt to force him to accept a bad peace deal, to Benghazi, to the scandal involving Clinton Foundation funds, to her handling of emails relating to national security, all in the context of dishonesty and federal investigation, Open Orthodoxy has not a word to say.
Apparently, these clergymen feel that the Clinton conduct and positions on marriage and other societal issues, including right-to-life issues, are in keeping with their “religious principles.” Nothing could be further from the truth. President Obama has taken this country down a moral slide, and Mrs. Clinton would continue those policies that are antethical to Torah.
Moreover, Chazal have not only taught us about eivah (inciting hatred toward us by outside society), but they have even ruled that many things that are otherwise ossur may be done to prevent eivah. This basic concern, which is part of Torah, not to arouse animosity toward Jews, has been totally ignored and steamrolled over by the signers of the Open Orthodox condemnation of Donald Trump.
We hope that Mr. Trump is aware that countless religious Jews support his candidacy, despite the terrible image created by media-hungry leftist clergy and laymen.
We should dispel the notion spun by these 50 leaders and let the world know that they don’t speak for us. America is a democracy and everyone is free to examine the candidates and their positions on issues and support who they want, but they do not have a right to speak in the name of a community. They do not have a right to ignore facts and take sides in a volatile debate that will have serious connotations for us all.