Today is Yom Kippur, one of the two most important Jewish holidays of the year. This is the holiday when Jews across the globe set aside a day to atone for their sins. It is a day of reflection. It’s a day to reflect on failings of the last year, and a day to decide what we will do next year to make our lives better,…to make our lives a blessing. Someone reminded Donald Trump that he should pretend to care about the Jews in America.
Trump took time out of his busy day to publish a single tweet:
“My thoughts are with all those observing Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year.”
Seth Rogen responded succinctly by saying:
Two weeks ago, neo-Nazis marched past Beth Epstein’s synagogue chanting “Sieg Heil” while on their way to a white supremacist rally at Emancipation Park, in Charlottesville.
Epstein, 51, remembers looking out the window from the room she was now sitting in at Congregation Beth Israel and glimpsing a swastika. Later that day, 32-year-old Heather Heyer would be killed when a man with ties to the neo-Nazi movement allegedly plowed his car into a crowd.
The white supremacists and neo-Nazis who marched in the town Aug. 12 had chanted threats aimed directly at Jews: “Blood and Soil!” and “Jews will not replace us!” They held signs reading “the Goyim know,” a slur referring to non-Jewish people, and “the Jewish media is going down.”
Leaders at Beth Israel took certain precautions, on the day of the demonstrations. Services started an hour early, and leaders of the congregation moved Torahs, including a Holocaust scroll they knew was irreplaceable, to a congregant’s home for safekeeping.
As the ralliers raged, the President of the Temple stood outside the synagogue with an armed security guard hired because Zimmerman was concerned for the safety of his congregants praying inside. Men wearing fatigues and armed with semiautomatic rifles passed by. Zimmerman recalled hearing one shout: “There’s the synagogue.”
“I had no choice but to be out there,” Zimmerman said. “I’m not suggesting I could have done anything, affected anything, but there was no other place that I could be at that moment.”
Zimmerman felt close to crying, he said, as he later told the roughly 40 people gathered in the synagogue that it would be best for them to leave through the back door after services and to travel in groups.
Hate crimes targeting Jews comprise the largest portion of religiously motivated attacks in the United States. In New York City, the number of anti-Semitic attacks has more than doubled this year. Meanwhile, hate crimes and racist incidents targeting other marginalized communities, including African-Americans, immigrants, Muslims and LGBTQ people have abounded since Trump was elected. There were nearly 900 incidents of hate across the U.S. in the 10 days following Trump’s victory.
Many believe that Trump is to blame for creating a hateful environment in which anti-Semites can thrive. The appointment of Steve Bannon ― who ran conservative Breitbart News and who has been accused of anti-Semitism himself – is just one way Trump has “condoned” anti-Semitism. The fact that Trump hasn’t been willing to give an impassioned statement about the issue, or offer up any viable solutions, is another way he has implicitly enabled anti-Semites.
On this day of atonement it is Donald Trump who has many sins for which he must atone.