Many participants plan to either skip the speech altogether or silently walk out after Trump is introduced
Several groups of rabbis and Jewish religious leaders are planning to protest Donald Trump’s speech to a major pro-Israel conference in Washington on Monday, accusing the presidential candidate of encouraging hatred.
Trump is scheduled to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee 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.”
“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,” said Paskin, a rabbi in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. “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 all of those individuals will be at AIPAC.
AIPAC is a pro-Israel lobbying group focused on energizing Americans around strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship and encouraging members of Congress to support its agenda. The annual conference is a key stop for politicians seeking an audience with the influential group and is the largest pro-Israel policy gathering of the year.
An AIPAC spokesman wouldn’t 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 U.S.-Israel relationship.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Other groups have also spoken out against Trump’s attendance at AIPAC, though they haven’t officially announced plans to protest.
The Union for Reform Judaism, representing the largest Jewish denomination in America, 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.
The American Jewish Committee, another large Jewish organization, put out a statement condemning “presidential campaign violence,” though it did not specifically name Trump.
“We do not draw analogies to the rise of communism and fascism lightly, but both of those tyrannical movements rose to power replacing democratically elected governments, by virtue of threats of, or actual, violence against their opponents,” the AJC said.
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,” Paskin said. “We’re going to be providing the antidote, we believe, to what Donald Trump is espousing.”
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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.
He said that while he wants to show that AIPAC is bipartisan and welcomes politicians of both parties, that having Trump speak does not mean the group condones his message.
Citing in part Trump’s statements on immigrants, women and refugees, another Israel advocacy group, J Street, put out a statement Thursday declaring that “these factors in our view render Donald Trump unfit to be President of the United States.”
The statement added, “Trump and his campaign, driven by racism and hate, are beyond the bounds of acceptability for the vast majority of Jewish Americans.”
Trump has been a lightning rod of criticism throughout his campaign for comments he’s made and policies he’s espoused, including calling for a temporary ban on all foreign Muslims entering the U.S. and blocking Syrian refugees. He’s also had a tense relationship with the American Jewish community at times, delivering an awkward address in the fall to the Republican Jewish Coalition and holding positions that have rankled the pro-Israel crowd, such as refusing to pledge that Israel will keep Jerusalem as its undivided capital.
Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, is married to a devout Jewish man and observes Jewish customs, which Trump has mentioned on the trail.
Some protesters at his events have begun wearing yellow Stars of David, a reference to the labels forced upon Jews in Nazi Germany leading up to the Holocaust.