On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump has another opportunity to speak up

Demonstrators at a rally outside the White House, on Jan. 29, 2017, against President Trump's refugee ban recall the Holocaust. RNS photo by Jerome Socolovsky

(RNS) I have a Jewish friend. She’s great, smart, and it’s fun to swap stories with her about our kids and the challenges they pose.

Having a Jewish friend, however, does not inoculate me against prejudice.

Unfortunately, as a very flawed human being, I can still fall into discriminatory beliefs and behaviors. I wish that weren’t the case, but I know it is. So, I have to work at overcoming the biases with which I was raised, to try to be the man I want to be.

This issue has followed President Trump and his relationship with those of the Jewish faith. He has repeatedly beaten up anyone questioning him about anti-Semitism, displaying indignant fury as though his daughter’s conversion to Judaism and his son-in-law’s Judaism weren’t enough to quell the issue.

But the president’s family members are not unlike me having a Jewish friend. Their importance does not make it impossible for us to be anti-Semitic.

Any thoughtful person will recognize that it’s possible to be prejudiced against a class of people while allowing a certain few to have the privilege of one’s company and trust. For these people, the trusted few are “different” from the rest, and thus they are worthy of confidence that should not be “wasted on the others.”

To be clear, Trump has only the man in the mirror to blame for questions about his relationships with the Jewish people. It was Trump who issued a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jan. 27, which somehow failed to mention Jews.

READ: Trump statement on Holocaust remembrance does not mention Jews

When Jake Turx, an Orthodox Jewish reporter for Ami Magazine, tried to ask Trump about his response to bomb threats against Jewish sites on Feb. 16, Trump took umbrage at the suggestion and refused to let him finish his question, calling himself “the least anti-Semitic person you’ve ever seen in your life.”

READ: Jewish groups dismayed by Trump’s response to anti-Semitism question

On Feb. 20, 11 Jewish Community Centers were threatened with bombings. Graves were desecrated in a Jewish cemetery outside St. Louis.

David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, wrote an open letter to the president that day, pleading with him to use the power of his office to make clear to all Americans that hatred of Jews was beyond the pale. Trump’s often strange silences brought him to this moment.

I don’t know Trump personally. I’m willing to entertain the notion that he’s not anti-Semitic. But if he’s not, then it’s time for him to use more than words to express his feelings. It’s time he started acting truly Christian.

He has made a great deal of America being a Christian country and has said that under his administration “Christianity is allowed again.”(Historical and theological note: It wasn’t founded as a Christian country, and to call it so is idolatrous. But I digress.)

Change will not be easy.

There’s a long history of Christian anti-Semitism that has been as virulent a scourge to the Jewish people as any other in their religious and national saga.

Christians attacked Jews in pogroms in towns across medieval Europe; Christians placed Jews in ghettos and passed laws banning Jews from their nations. Many of those who participated in the Third Reich’s genocidal atrocities were Christians, and many of those who are threatening Jews in America today call themselves Christian.

The Bible demands otherwise.

Paul wrote to the church at Rome that God had not rejected the Jews and that all Israel would be saved. Even if Christians wrongly saw Jews as their enemies, their living God had commanded them to love their enemies!

The New Testament could not be clearer: Christians cannot attack Jews without rejecting the commandment of their God.

The Roman Catholic Church in its document “Nostra Aetate” (or “Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions”) directed Christians to have a mutual understanding and respect for Jews. It decried persecution, hatred, and any display of anti-Semitism.

Protestant denominations regularly teach similar doctrine. The Presbyterian Church (USA), the denomination to which Trump is most frequently linked, stated as early as 1987, in its official “Theological Understanding of the Relationship between Christians and Jews,” that the church in its own identity is intimately related to the continuing identity of the Jewish people, and that Christians must show a willingness to ponder with Jews the mystery of God’s election of both Jews and Christians to be a light to the nations.

Holocaust Remembrance Day is Monday (April 24). Trump must remember the words of Martin Niemöller, a German Lutheran pastor who served under the Nazi regime, and who lamented his failure to act early during the Third Reich.

He wrote, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

He survived the war in a German concentration camp, and served after the war as a voice of repentance.

This is your chance, Mr. President. Many are waiting for your moral leadership on this question, and you have proven that your example can and will be taken seriously. Take this opportunity to act as a Christian, and forcefully decry any attacks on Jews or any other religion as un-Christian, un-American, and unworthy of the bonds we strive to strengthen as we seek to form a more perfect union for this generation and all those to come.

(R. Ward Holder is  professor of theology at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., and an ordained Presbyterian minister)

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R. Ward Holder


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  • “was Trump who issued a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jan. 27, which somehow failed to mention Jews.” Maybe Trump doesn’t feel the need for him to run the country as you would. They elected him.

  • Why would he (more like his speechwriters) leave out the key element and the reason for it?
    1. They forgot (least likely)
    2. Deemed not important to mention
    3. Omitted on purpose to downplay the anti-semiticism of the Holocaust

    #1 is incompetent but benign. The other possible choices are inspired by hate and bigotry. They sent a message. If these kind of omissions continue we’ll know where the WH stands.

  • I’ve never heard of “International Holocaust Day”, nor do I care about it. I don’t care about “secretaries day” either, nor “Sweetheart’s day”.
    Seems to me that was one of the man’s first speeches. Or maybe the man simply made a mistake? Gosh, like none of us ever do? For Heaven’s sake, give the man a break. Look to see why God put him in that position. (edited)

  • That’s irrelevant whether any of us care about these things; the President represents every American so he (or his office) usually pays attention to these things.

  • When is the Remembrance day for the victims of the Holodomor?
    100 movies about the alleged holocaust: zero movies about the holodomor. Hmmmm…..wonder why? Wake up Christians! Revelation 2:9;3:9

  • No, I wonder why you’re ignoring several remembrance days and movies about the Holodomor, including “Bitter Harvest” which came out this year.

  • God placed him in power. We were all amazed to see him get into office. I guess the Lord had other plans, Arb.

  • LOL! Go poll 100 people and 98 out of 100 will look at you like you have two heads when you ask them if they know what the holodomor is. They will say, “A place to store cigars.” What a joke.

    Ask those same 100 people if they are aware of the Jew Lazar Kaganovich. Again…blank stare. Or how about Theodore Kaufman.
    Thanks for the laugh.

  • You view it as proof, as is your want.
    It’s your sky so you get to choose its color.

  • Moving the goalposts is the surest sign you’ve lost the argument. Thank you for your concession. BTW, people wouldn’t look at you with a blank stare because they didn’t know who those people are. They’d look at you that way because your use of the term “the Jew” exposes you for you are.

  • Lost the argument…..what argument? That is the whole point.
    Put me in the same camp with Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh……proud to be there. And Jesus I might add — Revelation 2:9;3:9
    “You are of your Father the Devil”

  • “…your use of the term “the Jew” exposes you for you are….
    Oh…..the irony. Lazar Kaganovich is a Jew and somehow I am at fault for pointing that fact out. We live in strange times for sure.
    The Truth is No Defense. google that one.

  • You’re at fault for thinking it’s relevant…”

    Quote about the Red Terror —
    “Historian Leonard Schapiro wrote, “Anyone who had the misfortune to fall into the hands of the Cheka stood a very good chance of finding himself confronted with, and possibly shot by, a Jewish investigator.”

    Schapiro is at ‘fault’ for thinking it’s relevant?

    One More —

    “Immediately after the [Bolshevik] Revolution, many Jews were euphoric over their high representation in the new government. Lenin’s first Politburo was dominated by men of Jewish origins.

    Under Lenin, Jews became involved in all aspects of the Revolution, including its dirtiest work. Despite the Communists’ vows to eradicate anti-Semitism, it spread rapidly after the Revolution — partly because of the prominence of so many Jews in the Soviet administration, as well as in the traumatic, inhuman Sovietization drives that followed.

    Historian Salo Baron has noted that an immensely disproportionate number of Jews joined the new Bolshevik secret police, the Cheka. Many of those who fell afoul of the Cheka would be shot by Jewish investigators.

    The collective leadership that emerged in Lenin’s dying days was headed by the Jew Zinoviev, a loquacious, mean-spirited, curly-haired Adonis whose vanity knew no bounds.” Historian Louis Rapoport
    Another one ‘at fault’?

  • Bolshevism became popular among Jews because of their treatment by the Czar and his forces. That’s not a secret. You trying to make it a part of a World Jewish Conspiracy is the problem.

  • Seems like a change of subject so I’ll bring this up. Why is your name Roy Hobs? Is it some deep commentary on The Natural, in which you represent the meek and talented player oppressed by “The Jew” Malamud? (If Roy Hobs is your real name, never mind.)

  • I just liked the movie. Never heard of the author. Thanks for the education. So…..no deep commentary.
    Question for you — Have you read Henry Ford’s “The International Jew”?
    You are an admitted Atheist…..correct? Why do you then spend much time on a religious forum? I’ve never understood this phenomena. I don’t hardly ever read a site like Huffington Post (as an example) and I would never comment there.
    Are you an X religionist? Have some kind of grudge or something.

  • Are you a Bible believer? In other words…..would you agree with this passage: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age…..Ephesians
    Would you agree with the concept of a war between Good and Evil — Two Spiritual Forces opposing one another?

  • No I don’t believe that. People have tendencies to commit good acts or bad acts. You can have both at the same time. I don’t see it as a war between Good and Evil “entities.”

  • If you are interested, I’d be keen on continuing our conversation, but I don’t want to hog the site. And some things are personal. We can share our stories of how we arrived at where we are at. Just turn my name around – hobsroy. It is a Gmail account. Peace.

  • God, creator of the universe, is an anti-Semite and so am I. Judaism has no place in the land of Israel.