2 US rabbinic leaders ask liberal groups to keep open mind on Trump’s Israel ambassador nominee

Ben Harris

(JTA) — Leaders of New York and New Jersey rabbinic associations called on Jewish liberal groups to keep an open mind concerning President Donald Trump’s choice of ambassador to Israel.

In a letter to the leaders of J Street, the liberal pro-Israel lobby, and T’ruah, the rabbinic human rights group, Rabbis David-Seth Kirshner and Elie Weinstock said the nominee, David Friedman, should have an opportunity to clarify his views, The Times of Israel reported.

“Rather than opposing now by petition, we humbly request that you allow Mr. Friedman his opportunity to appear before a Senate confirmation hearing and allow him to better articulate his views and answer any and all questions asked of him,” said the letter addressed to J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami and T’ruah Executive Director Rabbi Jill Jacobs.

Weinstock is the vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis and Kirshner is the vice president of the New Jersey Board of Rabbis.

Friedman has aroused alarm in liberal Jewish circles for his defense of Israeli settlement construction and his harsh words about J Street, whose supporters Friedman accused of being “far worse than Kapos,” referring to the Jews who collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust.

“They are just smug advocates of Israel’s destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure American sofas – it’s hard to imagine anyone worse,” Friedman wrote in a column over the summer.

Weinstock and Kirshner acknowledged that concerns about Friedman were legitimate and that his comparison to kapos was “unacceptable” and “divisive.” Nevertheless, the rabbis said they had met with Friedman recently in New York and urged that his critics give him an opportunity to explain himself.

Ben-Ami has said that Trump’s choice of Friedman was “reckless.”

Weinstock is a clergy member at New York’s Kehilath Jeshurun, where Trump’s daughter underwent conversion to Judaism under the guidance of the synagogue’s rabbi emeritus, Haskel Lookstein.

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