It made headlines across the country: local Jews tell Trump not to visit Pittsburgh to mourn the dead and visit the wounded.
A letter sent to the President by a group called “Bend the Arc,” described by the media as “leaders of the Pittsburgh Jewish community,” told the president that he wasn’t welcome unless he took action on anti-Semitism and white nationalism. Specifically, the letter calls out the president for “targeting and endangering all minorities” and putting forth an “assault on immigrants and refugees.”
The media reports were wrong. Bend the Arc has nothing to with the leadership of the Pittsburgh Jewish community, it is a political organization based in New York. And it is only nominally Jewish.
The organization was established in 2015 by Alex Soros, son of progressive donor George Soros. Politico described it as new political action committee focused on representing the views of Jewish Americans beyond foreign policy. In fact, it represents only the views of progressive Jewish Americans, at least on domestic politics.
After the 2016 election, Bend the Arc became a self-described anti-Trump resistance group. This fact was omitted by mainstream media that tries to paint the president as a bigot, but the group’s website make its opposition to anything Republican very obvious.
The header of the Bend the Arc homepage identifies it as part of the “resistance.” Below that is a statement of its mission (bolded emphases mine):
“Bend the Arc is a movement of tens of thousands of progressive Jews all across the country. For years, we’ve worked to build a more just society. Now we’re rising up in solidarity with everyone threatened by the Trump agenda to fight for the soul of our nation. Together we:
“Hold elected officials accountable: If politicians are going to enable the immoral agenda of the Trump administration and the Republican Party, we’re going to hold them accountable. And we won’t hesitate to organize and fundraise to replace them with progressive champions.”
“Interrupt Trump 2018: How do we stop Trump’s attacks on women, immigrants and their families, people of color, students, and Muslims? We replace his enablers in Congress. Meet our campaign to interrupt Trump by talking to 100,000 voters in key districts where we can flip the House.”
With these statements on its homepage, would anyone really expect Bend The Arc to roll out the red carpet for the president, Mrs. Trump, and administration figures when they came to pay their respects to the Tree of Life Synagogue victims in Pittsburgh?
An unbiased Jewish observer might call the Bend the Arc letter “a shanda fur di goyim.”
Jeffrey Myers, who was leading the Tree of Life congregation during the attack, was criticized by some for meeting with Trump during his visit. He said he received death threats for saying Trump was welcome. Following the get-together, he said he was “pleasantly surprised” to discover a “warm and personal side” to Trump.
According to CNN, in his sermon on Saturday, Myers said he’d drawn on “lessons from Jewish tradition in welcoming the president.”
Ironically, the parsha read on Shabbos was Chayei Sarah, where we learn the importance of comforting mourners. “And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that G-d blessed Isaac, his son” (Genesis 25:11). The sages infer from this verse that G-d himself was there, comforting the bereaved Isaac. Thus we learn that it is a sacred obligation to comfort mourners, whether related to them or not, whether the dead was a close friend or a passing acquaintance.
Bend the Arc’s letter attempted to prevent President Trump from doing that.
While the media was quick to blame the president, the truth is that the only person responsible for shooting up a synagogue was the anti-Semitic madman who did it.
Perhaps it is unreasonable to expect the media to explore the religious aspects of Bend the Arc’s letter, or to have a guest (like me) explain it to their audiences. It is not unreasonable for them to ignore the actual political leanings of the group, or the fact that it is not a local organization.
From their own words, it is clear that Bend the Arc is a national anti-Trump group. Did any reporter make an effort to visit their homepage? Based on their reporting, I highly doubt it.