(photo credit: REUTERS/JOE RAEDLE/POOL)
NEW YORK – Some 250 female rabbis in the United States signed a letter last week condemning Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s behavior and words, because “they demean women and men, Republicans and Democrats, Americans and our friends and allies around the world and people of every race, nationality and religion.”
The rabbis signed the petition in their personal and individual capacities, as the law dictated by the US Internal Revenue System, which applies to nonprofit organizations such as synagogues and other religious organizations, forbids rabbis to “rate, endorse, or oppose candidates for public office, or engage in any activity that could be interpreted as intervening or participating in an electoral campaign.”
IRS rules say that rabbis can, however, endorse candidates if they do so in their personal, private capacities only, but not from their pulpits or through the use of official synagogue documents.
“We speak as individuals, as women, as rabbis, as teachers and as role models to young people,” the women wrote. “Trump’s toxic words erode the integrity of our political institutions, our civic traditions and the customs of civility in public discourse upon which we all rely for our safety and stability.”
The letter, timed ahead of the Simhat Torah holiday, emphasizes Judaism’s teaching that “a person’s utterance of words is in fact a powerful deed.”
It was inspired by a similar letter signed by Christian clergywomen following the leaked tape of Trump talking about sexually assaulting women, in which they urge all religious leaders to “preach, teach and help their communities heal from the twin sins of sexual violence and misogyny.”
“He has denigrated people by race, by nationality, by their gender and by their most intimate, personal challenges,” the rabbis’ letter said. “His callous descriptions of uninvited physical contact, and even sexual assault, offend our understanding of appropriate relationships between human beings.
“Humiliating someone, even privately, and especially publicly, is a serious form of emotional violence that causes tangible harm and is therefore forbidden by our faith,” they added.
“Consequently, we find Donald Trump’s denigration of so many people and groups to be an ongoing assault he perpetually carries out before the entire world,” the letter continued. “He does this recklessly in the name of our society. As women rabbis and as Jewish leaders in the most sacred and joyous season of our year, we say ‘Not in our names.’”
In conclusion, the women rabbis said that in light of the holiday season, they “commit [themselves] to working with [their] fellow Americans and people of good will around the world, and of every faith, nationality and background, to restore and uphold these civic traditions and to strengthen them wherever we can through acts of loving-kindness, respect and humility.”
Among the signatories are many rabbis of the New York area, including Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Assembly Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, who has, in her personal capacity, endorsed Hillary Clinton and delivered a blessing at the Democratic National Convention this year.