Influential Los Angeles rabbi David Wolpe called Rabbi Haskel Lookstein’s decision against giving the invocation at the Republican National Convention “a shame” in a Time Magazine opinion piece.
Wolpe, who gave the invocation at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, said that a prayer is a blessing that does not — and should not — constitute an endorsement. A few weeks after he blessed the Democratic convention, Wolpe said he was invited to offer a blessing at Republican Jewish party dinner, which he did.
“These are the major political parties that govern our nation. Both should be blessed. That is what clergy are supposed to do; we do not only bless those with whom we agree,” he wrote.
Lookstein, a prominent and well-respected rabbi who presided over Ivanka Trump’s conversion to Orthodox Judaism, withdrew from giving the invocation at the Republican National Convention this week amid an outcry from the Modern Orthodox community and numerous petitions. In a letter explaining his reasons for withdrawing, Lookstein claimed that what was intended to be solely a religious gesture had become political.
“Like my father before me, I have never been involved in politics. Politics divides people. My life has been devoted to uniting a community,” he wrote.
Though Wolpe did not blame Lookstein for withdrawing from the convention under political pressure, he said clergy must remain above partisanship.
“I regret both the protests and his withdrawal. People constantly complain of polarization. Yet protesting a prayer is the most blatant appeal to ‘sides.’ If we cannot accept bipartisan clergy, what is to become of us?” he wrote.