Several Baltimore area rabbis and cantors are among more than 650 Jewish faith leaders who signed a pledge to hold the Donald Trump administration accountable for protecting the human rights and civil liberties of all people.
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights is circulating the pledge, which was posted on the organization’s website two weeks ago. It had garnered 693 signatures as of Dec. 5. Included among those were Rabbis Sonya Starr of Columbia Jewish Congregation, Faith Cantor of Beth El Congregation, Jerry Seidler of Adat Chaim and Har Sinai Congregation Rabbi Emeritus Floyd Herman along with Cantor Robbie Solomon of Baltimore Hebrew and Rabbi/Cantor Rhoda Harrison, formerly of Temple Emanuel.
“As rabbis and cantors, we fervently pledge to raise our voices, and those of our communities, to hold the new administration accountable for protecting the human rights and civil liberties of all people as precious creations in the divine image,” the pledge reads.
For Baltimore-area rabbis, the pledge spoke to many of their concerns with the rhetoric and proposed policies of the incoming administration.
“It was very important to me that with President-elect Trump that he has an idea of what is important to all his constituencies across the country,” said Starr. “As Jews, we have always been at the forefront of civil rights, both when we were oppressed and when we weren’t.”
Both Starr and Cantor cited Jewish history as a major motivator for signing. Jews know all too well the cost of local leaders staying silent, Cantor said.
“Jewish history has taught us that fascism arrives slowly, through the steady erosion of liberties,” the pledge goes on to say. “And we have learned that those who attack other minorities will eventually come to attack us. To our great dismay, we learned this truth again when, during this election campaign, anti-Semitism rose to the fore along with racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, misogyny and homophobia.”
After the election, like many others, Cantor said she wanted an outlet, a way to do more. This pledge felt like a beginning for that.
“I don’t do politics a lot as a rabbi, but it felt really important to put my name on [the pledge] as a rabbi,” Cantor said. “I think faith leaders are really going to need to be on their game for the next four years.”
The group criticized other Jewish organizations that offered early congratulations to Trump and others who “have accommodated him by looking beyond” his rhetoric.
“For some Jewish leaders, there will be a temptation to accommodate the new administration in the hopes of protecting our own community’s ‘interests,’” the pledge says. “As Joseph learned long ago, and as the Jewish community has learned time and time again, proximity to power does not guarantee protection in the long run. Nor can we ignore the fact that our Jewish community includes people of color, immigrants, women, LGBTQ people, people dependent on the social safety net and others at risk for reasons beyond Jewish identity. Jews will not be safe until every one of us is safe in a just and democratic society.”
Both Starr and Cantor feel that Trump’s views are in conflict with their faith.
“He just doesn’t represent Jewish values,” Cantor said, “and I live my life according to Jewish values.”