Despite White House statement, Jewish groups call on Trump to condemn JCC bomb threats, anti-Semitism
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Despite White House statement, Jewish groups call on Trump to condemn JCC bomb threats, anti-Semitism

Donald Trump

President Donald Trump at a White House news conference, Feb. 16, 2017. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Jewish groups called on President Donald Trump to condemn the wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the country, and to speak out against anti-Semitism.

Despite a statement from the White House early Monday evening condemning “hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind,” groups on various sides of the political spectrum said they are seeking a specific condemnation of the anti-Semitic acts from the president himself.

On Monday evening, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt applauded a tweet by Ivanka Trump in which the president’s daughter called for the protection of religious institutions and used the hashtag #JCC, and called on her father to do the same.

“Glad to see this. All Jews need to urge @POTUS to step forward & share a plan. His words carry weight. His actions will speak even louder,” Greenblatt’s tweet said.

In a Monday afternoon statement issued in the wake of hoax bomb threats to 11 JCCs across the country, Greenblatt said without mentioning Trump by name, “We look to our political leaders at all levels to speak out against such threats directed against Jewish institutions, to make it clear that such actions are unacceptable, and to pledge that they will work with law enforcement officials to ensure that those responsible will be apprehended and punished to the full extent of the law.”

At 5:43 that evening, the ADL tweeted, “We are still waiting to hear what administration will do to address ongoing threats to Jewish communities .”

The White House statement, later attributed to deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters, was reported about the same time. Issued in response to a query from NBC News, her statement did not refer to the Jewish institutions nor anti-Semitism by name, but said the “President has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable.”

Many Jewish groups, however, do not think Trump has made that abundantly clear, pointing to two news conferences last week during which, questioned by Jewish reporters about how he planned to address a spike in anti-Semitism, Trump either demurred or appeared to change the subject.

In an open letter Monday to Trump posted on the American Jewish Committee’s website and published in the Huffington Post and The Times of Israel news websites, AJC CEO David Harris and its publications director, Lawrence Grossman, called on Trump to “condemn what has often been called ‘the oldest hatred’ — anti-Semitism — and unleash the power of government to match deeds with words.”

They also said: “President Trump, you are a real estate developer from one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, and, as you like to say, the least anti-Semitic person around. Again, you proudly speak of the Jewish members of your immediate family. Yet, until now at least, you won’t comment on the threats that ultimately menace them every bit as much as the rest of us.

“Isn’t it time that you speak up, loud and clear, including against those who may have totally misconstrued your call to ‘make America great again’ and put ‘America First’ as invitations to turn against one another?”

Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America and a consistent supporter of the president, told the Israeli daily Haaretz in an article published early Tuesday that Trump should issue a statement denouncing the threats.

“President Trump should come out as soon as possible against these phone threats and make it clear that we in America will not tolerate this kind of disgraceful hatred toward Jews,” Klein said in an interview from Israel, where he is participating in a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder called on elected officials at all levels to speak out against the anti-Semitic incidents such as the bomb threats in a statement issued hours after they were made public.

“We sincerely hope that there will be a strong and decisive reaction by the authorities at all political levels to combat it. This is not merely a problem for the Jewish community, it’s a problem for America as a whole,” Lauder said.

“It is equally important that political leaders in Washington and on the state and local levels speak out and condemn such vile acts. I know that President Trump and his administration will take all necessary steps on the federal level to address this problem.”