WASHINGTON (JTA) — The leaders of three of the four major Jewish religious streams were not invited to a White House briefing on issues “impacting the community,” nor was the Jewish community’s leading civil rights advocacy group.
Officials of three Orthodox umbrella groups — Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel, and America Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) — confirmed their leaders had been invited to the meeting, which is to take place Tuesday.
Officials of the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements, meantime, said the movements were not invited. A Washington D.C.-area Conservative rabbi, Stuart Weinblatt, was invited.
“On Tuesday, April 16, the White House will host more than 80 Jewish non-profit leaders, business leaders, and Rabbis,” a White House official told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, asked about the omission of the groups. “This is part of our regular ongoing engagement with various faith-community and business leaders.”
The more liberal streams have clashed with the White House on a range of policies, including immigration and President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, seen as fueling bias. The Orthodox movements have been more welcoming of White House policies, particularly relating to Israel, including Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
In 2017, the three streams declined to organize the traditional pre-Rosh Hashanah call between the president and rabbis, citing his equivocation in condemning neo-Nazi who organized a deadly march in Charlottesville, Virginia weeks before the holiday. The Reform movement had under previous presidents organized the call, inviting all streams to call in. The White House instead organized a call through Orthodox rabbis and did not invite the leaders of non-Orthodox streams to call in.
Previous administrations engaged consistently with the broad range of the religious streams, although there were at times tensions between administrations and individual advocacy groups.
“It’s clear the Trump White House invited a subset of the Jewish community and intentionally excluded others,” Halie Soifer, the director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said in an email. “As with everything this president does, this meeting appears to be defined by narrow political calculation as opposed to genuine outreach to the Jewish community.”
Also not invited was the Anti-Defamation League, the country’s leading Jewish civil rights group. Nor was J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, HIAS, the lead Jewish immigration advocacy group, or the Israel Policy Forum, a group dedicated to a two-state outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, another anti-defamation group, also was not invited, although its founder, Rabbi Marvin Hier, delivered a blessing at Trump’s inauguration.
Among the groups which did make the cut were the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Hadassah, the National Council of Young Israel, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Zionist Organization of America, the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, the Coalition for Jewish Values, the Republican Jewish Coalition, the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“Gathering with Jewish leaders,” an invitation viewed by JTA says. “You are invited to a discussion with key Administration officials on pertinent issues impacting the community.”
It did not specify what the issues are.