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US rabbis in protest, nix High Holy Days call with Trump

NEW YORK — American rabbis critical of President Donald Trump will not try to organize a conference call with him for the Jewish High Holy Days in protest of his response to a white nationalist rally in Virginia.

The conference call for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur was a tradition under President Barack Obama, but was never planned under Trump. Rabbis representing the liberal and centrist branches of American Judaism said they would not attempt to plan any such call ahead of the holidays next month.

Trump denounced bigotry at the march in Charlottesville, Virginia, but also said “very fine people” were on “both sides” of the demonstrations, which drew neo-Nazis, white nationalists, members of the Ku Klux Klan and counterprotesters. One woman was killed when an alleged white nationalist drove his car into a group of counterprotesters.

“The president’s words have given succor to those who advocate anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia,” the rabbis said Wednesday in announcing their decision.

The announcement came from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which represent the liberal Reform movement; the Rabbinical Assembly, which represents the centrist Conservative movement; and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association.

Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said he did not know whether the Trump administration had been considering participating in such a conference call this year.

The Rabbinical Council of America, which represents modern Orthodox rabbis, had joined the presidential holiday call in the past but did not sign this week’s announcement.

Rabbi Mark Dratch, executive vice president of the group, said, “We respect the office of the presidency and believe it is more effective to address questions and concerns directly with the White House.”

The council had issued a statement soon after the violence in Charlottesville criticizing Trump’s remarks as a “failing of moral leadership” that “fans the flames of intolerance.”

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