Two people stop to comfort Joseph Culver (C) of Charlottesville as he kneels at a late night vigil to pay his respect for a friend injured in a car attack on counter protesters after the "Unite the Right" rally organized by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. .
(photo credit: JIM BOURG / REUTERS)
Jewish leaders in the US are blaming President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and actions for the deadly violence that occurred at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday.
During the rally, which caused major controversy, a 32-year-old woman and two state troopers were killed and 19 others injured.
While American Jewish organization leaders have urged Trump to speak out against such hate, the president only made vague statements condemning the violence on “many sides,” claiming these kinds of events have been going on for a long time throughout American history.
“President Trump’s 2016 campaign fanned the flames of racial and religious bigotry,” said Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance. “While running for office, and now as president, he has regularly embraced figures and policies beloved by the extreme right.”
Sunday’s tragic events, Moline added, highlight the “urgent need for President Trump to formally and forcefully disavow white supremacy. His remarks thus far are woefully inadequate.”
Moline stressed that “the bigotry and violence on display in Charlottesville, Virginia must be denounced by all political leaders in no uncertain terms.”
“It’s unthinkable that in 2017 we would see crowds of torch-wielding white supremacists and neo-Nazis proudly displaying their swastikas and Confederate flags on the University of Virginia campus,” he concluded, calling on Trump to “prove [his] critics wrong.”
The Jewish mayor of Charlottesville, Michael Signer also pointed fingers at the president and his administration.
“I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in America today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president,” he said.
Several American Jewish groups joined in condemning the hate in Charlottesville.
The Anti-Defamation League described the event as “the largest and most violent gathering of white supremacists in decades.”
The initial gathering started as a protest against the dismantling of the statue General Robert E. Lee, general of the Confederate army during the American Civil War. The white supremacists chanted, “Hail Trump, Blood and Soil!” which are references to Nazi-era slogans.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center also condemned the alternative right and sent condolences to the family of the woman who was killed by the car as well as two state troopers who died in a helicopter crash while responding to the violence.
“Americans have the right to debate civilly the removal of a statue, the status of a flag or [the] renaming of a park, without turning to violence and worse.”
The Center urged the president to condemn the alternate right and white nationalists and concluded that “extremists, left or right, have no place in the mainstream of our nation.”