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Liberal Rabbis Join Trump’s High Holiday Call After 2-Year Absence

Rabbis from the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements will participate in the White House’s annual High Holidays conference call on Friday, a change in procedure after two years without participating.

Rabbi Debra Newman Kamin, the president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the union of Conservative rabbis, told the Forward on Thursday that their board had taken a vote and decided to have a representative participate in the call this year. “The overall sense was, regardless of how people feel about the president, that respect should be shown for the office of the president,” she said.

A spokesperson from the Union for Reform Judaism said that a representative would also participate in the call.

The Reform and Conservative movements, the two largest Jewish denominations in America, had traditionally organized the annual call, which dates back to the Eisenhower administration. But they and the smaller Reconstructionist movement decided not to participate in 2017, shortly after President Trump claimed that there had been “very fine people” among the white nationalist marchers in Charlottesville, Virginia. The White House itself then took responsibility for organizing the subsequent calls.

Reform and Conservative movement representatives did not participate in 2018 either. Prominent Reform rabbis told Haaretz then that they hadn’t been invited, and one, Religious Action Center director Rabbi Jonah Pesner, told RNS that he wouldn’t have participated anyway.

The Reconstructionist movement did not receive an invitation to the call, a spokesperson told the Forward. Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association executive director Rabbi Elyse Wechterman told a JNS reporter who had given her a link to sign up that she wouldn’t participate because she wasn’t invited.

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism did not respond to the Forward’s requests for comment by publication time, nor did the Religious Action Center or the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the union of Reform rabbis.

Orthodox groups like the Orthodox Union, Chabad-Lubavitch, the Coalition for Jewish Values and the National Council of Young Israel will also be participating, JNS reported.

Aiden Pink is the deputy news editor of the Forward. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @aidenpink

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