WASHINGTON — An otherwise congenial meeting between officials of Jewish organizations and Democratic senators apparently turned testy when New York Senator Charles Schumer, the minority leader, said Orthodox Jews should do more to call out President Donald Trump for failing to confront hate in the United States.
Schumer, who often refers to himself as “Shomer” Schumer for his watchful eye on the community’s interests, decried what he depicted as a tepid reaction to Trump’s equivocation following the neo-Nazi and white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August.
Members of the Orthodox Union who were present at the meeting last Wednesday responded by saying that it and other groups had expressed concerns about Trump’s remarks in a timely fashion after the demonstration, participants told JTA.
The annual meeting is an off-the-record forum for Democrats and Jewish leaders to exchange notes on topics of concern. JTA spoke to a number of participants who would not go on the record. The perceived intensification of anti-Semitism was one of several topics. Others included the Trump administration and Israel, and Democratic efforts to protect illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.
The meeting, which ran over an hour and was chaired by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., attracted 24 Democratic senators, with many of them dropping in for several minutes. That was the case with Schumer, according to participants. OU representatives delivered their reply after Schumer left.
The Charlottesville march turned deadly when a white supremacist rammed his car into a crowd of counterdemonstrators, killing one and injuring at least 20. On the day of the march, Aug. 12, Trump blamed “both sides” for the violence, prompting outrage from Democrats and some Republicans, as well as Jewish groups. Over subsequent days, Trump appeared to walk back his equivocation, condemning the neo-Nazis, and then again insisting there were “fine people” on both sides.
Orthodox groups condemned both the march, which occurred on a Shabbat, and Trump’s equivocation in real time.
“I don’t know if [President Trump] meant to give these groups legitimacy, but that is certainly how [the groups] are taking it, which is a problem,” Rabbi Moshe Bane, the Orthodox Union president, said in an article appearing in Hamodia on Aug. 16, a day after Trump had said there were “fine people” on both sides.
In addition to leaders of Reform, Orthodox and Conservative movements, groups represented included the Anti-Defamation League, American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, J Street, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Those present noted that the chair of AIPAC, Bob Cohen, and the chair of J Street, Jeremy Ben Ami, sat next to one another and appeared to get along. J Street is often described as a left-wing counter to AIPAC.
The Jewish Star contributed to this report