Amid widespread denunciations of Donald Trump’s proposal to bar Muslims from entering the United States, a handful of Jewish groups have failed to condemn the Republican presidential candidate’s controversial plan.
In a December 7 statement, Trump’s campaign said that the real estate developer was “calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Mainstream and left-leaning Jewish groups joined both Republican and Democratic honchos in condemning the statement. But some Jewish leaders were more equivocal in their responses.
Zionist Organization of America national president Mort Klein said banning all Muslims from entering the country was “going too far.” But he went on to rationalize Trump’s position: “Few people would oppose Hindus or Buddhists, or Christians coming to America, but Hindus or Buddhists or Christians are not saying or doing things that threaten people’s lives,” Klein said. “Muslims are.”
Klein said that the ZOA’s board recently voted unanimously to oppose “Syrian Muslims coming to America.”
Congressman Lee Zeldin, the only Jewish Republican in the House of Representatives, did not answer directly when asked what he thought of Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the country.
Instead, he too focused on the issue of Syrians.
“Focus at the moment should be on improving the visa waiver program, stopping the influx of Syrian refugees due to current vulnerabilities in the vetting process, and defeating ISIS altogether,” Zeldin wrote in a statement.
The Orthodox Union, meanwhile, a large centrist Orthodox umbrella group, said that it had “no position” on Trump’s Muslim ban. The group and its advocacy arm are often vocal on foreign affairs issues, and rallied loudly on Capitol Hill against the Iran deal.
The Rabbinical Council of America, a Modern Orthodox group, did not respond to a request for comment about Trump’s plan. The group has made statements in recent months on terror attacks in Israel and Paris, and on the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
Groups that did condemn Trump include the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, J Street, and the Israel Policy Forum, according to a JTA report.
Blogger and activist Pamela Geller, who the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead,” told the Forward that Trump’s proposal doesn’t go far enough.
“Trump didn’t call for a complete ban, but only a temporary one,” Geller wrote in an email.
Additional reporting by Antoaneta Roussi
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.