Rabbi Hier remembers Zion and Jerusalem in benediction for President Trump

"By the rivers of Babylon," he recited. "We wept as we remembered Zion. If I forget thee, Oh Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill."

January 20, 2017 21:04
2 minute read.
Rabbi Marvin Hier

Rabbi Marvin Hier . (photo credit: REUTERS)

Rabbi Marvin Hier, the first Orthodox rabbi ever to give a benediction at an American president's inauguration, cited psalm 137 at President Donald Trump's inauguration on Friday.

"By the rivers of Babylon," he recited. "We wept as we remembered Zion. If I forget thee, Oh Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill."

Rabbi Hier opened his speech by saying, "Eternal God, bless President Donald J. Trump, and America, our great nation. Guide us to remember the words of the Psalmist: 'Who will dwell on your holy mountain, one who does what is right, and speaks the truth. Who knows that when you eat the labor of your hands you are praiseworthy. That he who sows in tears, shall reap in joy. Because the freedoms we enjoy are not granted in perpetuity, but must be reclaimed by each generation."

Further Jewish participation in the day's events included the reported rabbinic permission Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, who are Jewish, received to travel the evening after the ceremony by car, though this is normally considered a violation of the Jewish Sabbath.

Further, according to CNN, this year's version of the traditional pre-inauguration religious service for the then president-elect and his inner circle at St. John's church in DC focused on when God chooses a leader, specifically the biblical figure of Nehemiah, who rebuilt the walls that protected Jerusalem.

Rabbi Hier, 77, is the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. His participation in the ceremony was protested in change.org petition posted by a Los Angeles businesswoman, Myra Stark.  The petition read “Hier is the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, named for the heroic Nazi-hunter, and the Museum of Tolerance — normalizing Trump with his participation will turn these organizations into a mockery and be a shame on the Jewish name forever,” reads the petition. “Apparently, Hier thinks it is acceptable to legitimize and collaborate with a political figure who the KKK is literally marching in the streets to celebrate.”

Hier told the Los Angeles radio station KPCC that the Inaugural Committee contacted him about his participation and that he said “it would be my honor to do so.”

Hier's benediction continued with scriptural quotations: "As our ancestors have planted for us, so we must plant for others. While it is not for us to complete the tasks, neither are we free to desist from them. Dispense justice for the needy and the orphan, for they have no one but their fellow citizens, and because a nation's wealth is measured by her values and not by her vaults."

"May the days come soon when justice will dwell in the wilderness," he concluded, "And righteousness will abide in the fertile fields, and the work of righteousness will be peace, quietness, and confidence forever, Amen."

JTA contributed to this report.

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