Jewish groups plan to protest Trump’s AIPAC speech

March 17, 2016  

Several groups of rabbis and Jewish religious leaders have announced a plan to protest Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) pro-Israel conference in Washington on Monday, accusing the presidential candidate of encouraging hatred, CNN reported Thursday.

Trump is scheduled to address the AIPAC conference Monday night, and several groups are organizing boycotts of the speech.

Rabbis David Paskin and Jesse Olitzky organized one such campaign, called Come Together Against Hate, a play on the conference’s theme of “Come Together.”

Paskin heads the Conservative Temple Beth David synagogue in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and Olitzky is the spiritual leaders of Congregation Beth El, a Conservative synagogue in South Orange, New Jersey.

The pair and their allies have created a website and Facebook group to organize a protest that they say is not designed to disrupt AIPAC but to signal their condemnation of Trump.

“This is not about policies, this is not about parties, this is about one particular person, Donald Trump, who has encouraged and incited violence at his campaign rallies,” Paskin told CNN. “We are against the hatred, the incitement of hatred, the ugliness that has engulfed this political season.”

Paskin has organized a group of more than 300 rabbis, cantors and Jewish voters and professionals who plan to signal their distaste for Trump on Monday. He estimated that almost of all of those individuals will be at AIPAC.

An AIPAC spokesman would not comment on the planned protest, but said the group has a “longstanding policy” to invite all the active presidential candidates to its conference during election years as an opportunity to hear from them on the relationship between the United States and Israel.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Other groups have also spoken out against Trump’s attendance at AIPAC, though they haven’t officially announced plans to protest.

One of them is the Union for Reform Judaism which put out a statement slamming Trump.

“At every turn, Mr. Trump has chosen to take the low road, sowing seeds of hatred and division in our body politic,” said the URJ while noting that it doesn’t endorse candidates.

According to CNN, Come Together Against Hate’s plan is to either skip the speech altogether or silently walk out after Trump is introduced, then assemble outside and study Jewish scripture about what Paskin called the “opposite” of Trump — love and decency.

“We’re hoping thousands of people will join us in that protest,” he said. “We’re going to be providing the antidote, we believe, to what Donald Trump is espousing.”

Paskin said he has reached out to another rabbi, Jeffrey Salkin of Hollywood, Florida, who is planning a similar protest.

Salkin confirmed to CNN that he’s organizing a boycott of Trump’s speech and calling for rabbis to simply be absent from the room.

In addition to Trump, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton will address the AIPAC conference as well. Earlier Thursday, Ohio Governor John Kasich was confirmed as a speaker at the conference as well. AIPAC’s website also lists Texas Senator Ted Cruz, another Republican presidential candidate, as one of the speakers.

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