After Poway: Trump, anti-Semitism and our rising insecurity

April 29, 2019

Dear Friends,

We are deeply saddened by the horrific attack at the Chabad Synagogue in Poway, California which led to the death of one congregant and the injury of three others. Six months to the day since the horrific massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue, our community was again targeted by violence. While we mourn this senseless loss of life and pray for those who have been injured, we must also remain vigilant and not overlook the factors that laid the foundation for this unconscionable hate crime.

On Saturday morning, published an op-ed I wrote on Passover regarding President Trump’s betrayal of the values we honor on that holiday. I noted that “his divisive actions and rhetoric have corresponded with rising hate crimes targeting religious and racial minorities, and a deep and growing sense of insecurity among American Jews.” Just a few hours later, a white supremacist armed with an assault weapon launched a vicious attack on innocent worshippers on the last day of Passover.

Given the horror of this attack, I have written a postscript to the op-ed that I wanted to share, detailing the president’s comments immediately before and after Saturday’s shooting. Less than 24 hours before the Poway attack, President Trump had the audacity to defend his description of white supremacists as being “very fine people” in Charlottesville, and even defended Robert E. Lee, who fought for white supremacy by waging war against the United States. Just hours after the Poway attack, the president told thousands of people in Green Bay, Wisconsin, that he was “proud” of the fact that sending immigrants to sanctuary cities was his “sick idea,” lauding himself for his own xenophobia and even acknowledging it as slightly deranged.

Americans should not be fooled by Trump’s shallow condemnation of anti-Semitism while the cameras are rolling, nor should we forget the vitriol he has espoused from the campaign trail to the Oval Office and throughout his presidency. These words have led to a deep and growing sense of insecurity for American Jews and other religious and racial minorities. Just as we will never forget those tragically lost in Pittsburgh and Poway, we will never forget that the President of the United States has fomented and inspired hate.


Halie Soifer
Executive Director, Jewish Democratic Council of America