The Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass issues a call for tolerance, a rejection of hatred and an embrace of diversity and pluralism.
In recent months, we have seen a spate of incidents of intolerance and prejudice in the U.S. and abroad. Numerous instances of bullying, vandalism, violence, ugly language and name calling targeting ethnic, racial, and religious minorities have led to a climate that both adults and children find unsettling and even frightening.
The appointment of Stephen K. Bannon, especially, as President-elect Donald Trump’s chief strategist and senior counselor has caused consternation among many Americans, particularly in the Jewish community.
All presidents have the right to make their own choices as to who advises them on strategic and other matters. We respect the latitude necessary for a president to work efficiently and productively on issues of national and global significance.
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Yet, Bannon, through his position as chief executive of Breitbart News, has associated himself with a variety of radical views that fall into the categories of anti-Semitism, xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia and misogyny.
For these reasons, white nationalists and neo-Nazis celebrate him as one of their own. No one with these associations should be in the White House, especially among our president’s closest advisers.
It is the responsibility of our federation to support and defend the rights of the Jewish community and all minority communities against all forms of bigotry, racism, hatred and persecution. We understand that prejudice, including anti-Semitism, exists at both ends of the political spectrum. History has taught us that silence is both unacceptable and dangerous.
We urge Trump to demonstrate his commitment to the pluralism, diversity and respect for all Americans he pledged in his victory speech when he promised to “bind the wounds of division” in America.
As a first step in this endeavor, we ask him to reconsider his appointment of Bannon. We also request that he reach out and show in all his personnel appointments his desire to work toward genuine healing in our divided society.
Our federation, along with others, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, continues to stand for the values we have always upheld: welcoming the stranger, fighting injustice, repairing the world, supporting Israel and Jewish communities around the world, speaking up for the voiceless and protecting the orphan and the widow.
Hate is neither a Jewish nor an American value. We urge local, state, and national leaders on both sides of the aisle to speak up against this threat to American democracy, to uphold inclusion and to fight against bigotry and discrimination of all kinds. We encourage other community groups to join in our efforts to combat prejudice and abuse.
Laurence H. Kant is co-chair of the Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass’s community relations committee.